Up to 400 people attended the Social Democrats’ first national conference in Dublin today.

The Social Democrats, led by TDs Catherine Murphy and Roisin Shorthall, have been an evolving party for more than two years.

At the conference, delegates adapted a new constitution, voted for party officers, and attended discussions on universal healthcare, housing, repealing the 8th Amendment and tackling admission policies of diocesan schools.

"From December onwards, many tenants across the country face the prospect of huge rent increases, which - for some - may result in them losing their homes," said co-leader Catherine Murphy.

Social Democrats conference

"There is an urgent need for the Government to extend these measures to prevent a spike in homelessness.

"Average rents have spiralled almost 50% in the last four years alone.

"The State has all but abdicated its duty to provide social housing, opting instead for its preferred outsourcing model and an increasing reliance on the free market. We have to get back to what it means to provide 'a home' and not just 'a property'," said Ms Murphy.

The party’s joint leaders said they are a centre-left party aiming to improve Irish society.

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In her leaders' address, Ms Shortall said the Social Democrats will be repealing the so-called 'baptism barrier' in schools.

"It is a key priority of the Social Democrats to repeal section 7(3)c of the Equal Status Act. This currently allows schools to favour certain religions when deciding enrolment policy," said Ms Shortall.

"Incredibly, the Government’s School Admissions Bill, currently going through the Dáil, ignores the baptism barrier.

"We will be tabling amendments to this Bill. It is time to finally end this outdated discrimination," added Ms Shortall.