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Cork South West ‘took a leap of faith on me’ says Holly in leader’s speech

February 26th, 2024 1:00 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

Cork South West ‘took a leap of faith on me’ says Holly in leader’s speech Image
Holly Cairns TD, flanked by former leaders Catherine Murphy, left, and Róisín Shortall, right, after delivering her first leader’s speech at the party conference in UCD on Saturday.

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SOCIAL Democrats leader Holly Cairns has said she was very aware that the people of Cork South West took a ‘leap of faith’ when they voted for her.

‘They voted for me even though on paper I didn’t stand a chance,’ she told the party conference on Saturday.

‘They voted for me even though commentators assumed it was a Fine Gael seat,’ added the party leader, who was making her first leader’s speech since assuming the top role in the party, last March.

‘They voted for me even after hearing this accent,’ she added, to laughter from the audience, at UCD in Dublin.

She said she believes the voters of Cork South West chose to vote for her because of what the party represents.

‘People want to vote for a party they can trust, with strong core principles of honesty and transparency,’ she said. Beginning her speech, which was televised by RTÉ, Ms Cairns said it was a huge honour and privilege to address the party’s members, as leader of the Social Democrats.

‘It’s almost one year since I put myself forward to become leader of our party. At the time I predicted it was going to be challenging, exhilarating and exhausting. 12 months – and a lot of grey hairs – later, I can confirm that it has been all of those things and more,’ she said.

She said that when she became leader she didn’t just have one pair of shoes to fill, but two – those of her ‘friends and colleagues’, Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall.

‘I live about five hours away from Leinster House, so I spend ten hours of my week minimum in my car, it gives me two things, a sore back and a lot of time to think. Lately, I have spent a lot of that time reflecting on that idea of a better Ireland.

And more specifically, I suppose, about the increasing number of people out there who have lost hope in the possibility of that.

Who feel the country is no longer working for them,’ she said on Saturday evening. She added that she believed the disillusionment comes from a profound disconnect, between where we are as a country, and where we should be.

‘Too many people are being left behind and too many people can’t see a way out that isn’t via the Departures Lounges in Dublin, Cork, or Shannon airport,’ she said.

‘It wasn’t so long ago that I sat in that Departures lounge myself. Forced to emigrate after the crash, because like so many others, I didn’t see a future for myself here,’ she added.

She said that while the wrong political decisions got us into crisis ‘the right ones can get us out.’ She said her party has a clear plan to deliver 50,000 homes per if in office, including 10,000 affordable homes and 12,000 social homes, and a three-year rent freeze.

Addressing emigration, she said there isn’t a family in Ireland that doesn’t have some history of emigration. ‘Ireland is not full, it’s just not working properly,’ she said. ‘And that can be fixed. If you want change, please get out there and vote for it.’

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