Holly Cairns serves as the newly elected leader of Social Democrats, having run unopposed by her Dáil colleagues.
Herself an NUI graduate, Cairns has a first-class honours MSc in organic horticulture from UCC. The first Ireland Thinks poll published by the Sunday Independent following her election indicates that the party's popularity has almost doubled to 9%, but remains in the single digits.
The Cork native has reportedly identified housing policy and Sláintecare as redline issues for her party in the context of future coalition government formation. She has also ruled out the prospect of a merger with the Labour party, led by Ivana Bacik. Social Democrats emerged from a schism within Labour in 2015, and both centre-left parties have enjoyed a relatively strong performance in the polls in recent months.
Labour held its annual party conference in Cork in March, with Bacik emphasising housing, the cost-of-living crisis, the climate crisis, and social issues in her speech. Both parties have been highly critical of the current Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and Greens coalition, with Bacik's Labour tabling a motion of no confidence in the government last month in response to its controversial decision to lift the ban on evictions. The government survived the vote, averting a general election.
Notably, Martha Ní Ríada, President-elect of UCDSU, is a registered member of Social Democrats. Ruarí Power, former SU President, is also a member of the party. Both Labour and Social Democrats maintain a visible presence on campus, and participated in the Pol Soc "Mock Dáil" earlier this month.