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Stephen Donnelly has today announced his decision to leave the Social Democrats with immediate effect. Donnelly, who was a founding member and co-leader of the party which launched in July 2015, said that he reached the decision following “a prolonged period of consideration”. In a statement issued this morning, Donnelly assured that he “will continue to serve the people of Wicklow and East Carlow to the best of my ability and will be consulting with my supporters in the coming days, to explore how this can best be done from here on”.

Donnelly’s decision to exit the party has come as a surprise to many. In his statement, Donnelly provided the following explanation for his departure:

“It is a fact that some partnerships, in every walk of life, simply don’t work no matter how hard all of the parties to that partnership try to make it succeed. My decision is based on the fact that for the Social Democrats to achieve its potential as a party of significant influence and scale, despite the many obstacles new parties face, one critical component is that the leadership team must function very well together as a team. In spite of everyone’s best efforts, I have concluded that our partnership did not have that. I further believe that this would be the case whether the leadership had continued to be shared or was vested in one person, which was not something I or anyone else had sought.”

Donnelly expressed his sadness in walking away from the party that he has vested so much in along with co-founders Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall,a  small core team and volunteers from across the country. He also expressed his continued commitment to his constituents saying, “I remain just as committed to making as best a contribution as I can to my constituency and our country through politics, as a social democrat.”

“I wish to thank most sincerely the many, many people who support both the Social Democrats and me personally. I will continue to work hard on the issues I am championing, including stopping tax avoidance by vulture funds, improving public services, resolving the mortgage crisis; responsible fiscal management, promoting high quality job creation and reducing the costs of living and doing business,” concluded Donnelly.

The Social Democrats issued a separate statement this morning following the announcement.

“Stephen Donnelly TD has informed us that he has decided to leave the Social Democrats and the project we, together with you, are undertaking to build a real Social Democratic alternative in Irish politics. We are disappointed that Stephen has taken this decision however we understand that over time things can change and Stephen has made a decision that he feels is right for him and we will respect that decision. Despite Stephen’s choice to step away, we are more committed than ever to building this party into a strong force for change in Irish society.”

The statement continued: “This is a long term project which requires dedication, hard work, long hours and a major commitment from all involved including our elected representatives. The levels of dedication required for such a major undertaking can be overwhelming for some.

“As is the case across the globe, the Social Democratic project is not, and was never, dependent on just one individual and so the project will continue with renewed vigour as we move into this exciting phase of the development of our party including the commencement of our new staff and our upcoming national conference.”

The statement concluded: “We wish Stephen the best in his future endeavours and look forward, with excitement, to the future development of the Social Democrats working closely with you.”

Update 3.40pm: A spokesperson from Stephen Donnelly’s office has said that Donnelly intends to stay within the Social Democrats-Green Party Dáil group to maintain speaking rights for all.

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