Holly hotly tipped for SD top job

February 27th, 2023 3:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns canvassing in Kinsale last weekend. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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CORK South West TD Holly Cairns is being mooted as the possible next leader of the Social Democrats party. 

While she refused to be drawn on the suggestion, she said she is taking the weekend to think about putting her name forward for the party’s top job. 

On Wednesday party co-leaders Róisín Shortall and Catherine Murphy announced they were stepping down.

Deputy Cairns said she was making no immediate decision on the top job. ‘I will take the weekend to think about it,’ she told The Southern Star.

She said it felt ‘quite emotional’ as both women had only been in her life for the past four years and yet they had made such a profound impact on it.

‘When I first knocked on doors in West Cork asking people to vote for the Social Democrats, faces would reliably light up whenever I mentioned the names Róisín Shortall and Catherine Murphy,’ she said. 

‘It’s a testament to their incredibly hard work that two TDs from Dublin North West and Kildare North are held in such high regard in Cork South West. If they hadn’t had the courage and vision to start a political party eight years ago, there is no way I’d be a TD today. Catherine and Róisín started a new political party at a point in their careers when they were very established politicians and it would have been a lot easier to run as independents.’

She added that the women founded the Social Democrats because they believed that Ireland is a socially democratic country at heart and deserves a political party that will stand up for those values. ‘I share that belief and I am so grateful for their leadership and friendship,’ she added.

Deputy Cairns said she would be taking time this weekend ‘to consider and discuss all future leadership options with my colleagues, my family and my team.’

In May 2019, Holly was first elected as a county councillor after a count that went on for four days. Holly pipped Beara’s Finbarr Harrington (Ind) to the post by a single vote.

At the time, the candidate, who was just shy of her 30th birthday, said the four-day count underlined the fact that ‘every vote counts’.

Those local elections were characterised by the success of young candidates and Holly, together with former Fine Gael Cllr Katie Murphy, gave the four-seater Bantry electoral area its first ever 50:50 gender representation.

There was an equally monumental shift the following year when Cairns dramatically unseated Fine Gael, in the guise of Tim Lombard, her nearest rival for the third and final seat, for the first time in 63 years.

Independent TD Michael Collins was returned to Dáil Eireann while Fianna Fáil’s Christopher O’Sullivan was elevated from his County Council standing to become a member of the Oireachtas.

Since her election, the county’s only female TD, has risen to become the party’s agriculture spokesperson. She recently spoke out about a very terrifying ordeal which saw her stalked at her home by a man unknown to her, and also revealed vile correspondence sent to her in the post.

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