|Leader||Micheál Martin TD|
|Founder||Éamon de Valera|
|Founded||23 March 1926|
|Split from||Sinn Féin|
|Headquarters||65–66 Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2, Ireland|
|Youth wing||Ógra Fianna Fáil|
|Membership (2013)||18,500 |
|European affiliation||Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe|
|European Parliament group||Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe|
|Politics of the Republic of Ireland
Politics of Northern Ireland
Fianna Fáil / /, also known as Fianna Fáil, The Republican Party, is a centrist to centre-right and conservative political party in the Republic of Ireland. Originally an Irish republican party, it was founded on 23 March 1926 after a split in Sinn Féin on the issue of abstentionism. Fianna Fáil's name is traditionally translated into English as Soldiers of Destiny, although a more accurate rendition would be Warriors of Fál ("Fál" being a legendary name for Ireland). Historically, Fianna Fáil has been seen as to the left of Fine Gael and to the right of Sinn Féin and the Labour Party and is generally seen as a classic "catch all" populist party - representing a broad range of people from all social classes. Fianna Fáil has led governments including parties of the centre-left (Labour and the Green Party) and of the centre-right (the now-defunct Progressive Democrats). It has been led by Micheál Martin since January 2011.
From the formation of the first Fianna Fáil government on 9 March 1932 until the election of 2011, the party was in power for 61 of 79 years. Its longest continuous period in office was 15 years and 11 months (March 1932–February 1948). Its single longest period out of office, in that time, has been 4 years and 4 months (March 1973–July 1977). Seven of the party's eight leaders have served as Taoiseach. It was the largest party in Dáil Éireann at every general election from the 1932 general election until the 2011 general election, when it suffered the worst defeat of a sitting government in the history of the Irish state, a loss described as "historic" in its proportions, where it saw its electoral support base diminished by 75%, as a reaction to the intervention, and in the running of the Irish economy, of the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank in November 2010. After the February 2011 election, it moved from being the largest party to the third-largest party in the 31st Dáil.
Fianna Fáil joined the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (previously the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party) on 16 April 2009, and has sat in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group in the European Parliament since the 2009 European elections.
The party is also organised in Northern Ireland but has yet to contest an election there.
Organisation and structure
Fianna Fáil's success was credited by The Irish Times to its local structure. The basic unit was the cumann (branch) which were then grouped into comhairle ceantair (district branch) and a comhairle dáil ceantair (constituency branch) in every constituency. At the party's height it boasted 3,000 cumainn, an average of 75 per constituency. The party claimed 55,000 members in 2004, a figure which Eoin O'Malley, a political scientist, considers exaggerated compared to membership figures for other parties.
However since the early 1990s the cumann structure was weakened. As every cumann was entitled to three votes to selection conventions irrespective of size, a large number of cumainn became in effect "paper cumainn" only used to ensure an aspiring or sitting candidate got enough votes. Another problem arose with the emergence of parallel organisations grouped around candidates or elected officials. Supporters and election workers for a particular candidate were loyal to a candidate and not to the party. If the candidate was to leave the party, through either resignation, retirement or defeat at election, the candidate's supporters would often depart. Although this phenomenon was nothing new, (the most famous example being Neil Blaney's "Donegal Mafia") it increased significantly from the early 90's particularly in the Dublin Region with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's "Drumcondra mafia" and the separate groups supporting Tom Kitt and Séamus Brennan in Dublin South largely separate from the official party structure.
Since the 2007 election, the party's structure has significantly weakened. This was in part exacerbated by significant infighting between candidates in the run up to the 2011 general election. The Irish Times estimated that half of its 3,000 cumainn are effectively moribund. This fraction rises in Dublin with the exception of Dublin West, the former seat of both Brian Lenihan's.
Fianna Fáil is seen as a typical catch-all party. R. Ken Carty wrote of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that they were 'heterogeneous in their bases of support, relatively undifferentiated in terms of policy or programme, and remarkably stable in their support levels'. Evidence from expert surveys, opinion polls and candidate surveys all fail to identify strong distinctions between the two largest parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Many point to Ireland's civil war politics and feel that the basis for the division is the disagreement about the strategy to achieve a united Ireland. Kevin Byrne and political scientist Eoin O'Malley rejected this and have argued that the differences between the two parties goes much further back in Irish history. They linked the parties to different nationalist traditions (Irish Enlightenment and Gaelic Nationalist) which in turn could be linked to migrations of Anglo-Norman and new English into Ireland and the 'native' Gaelic population.
The party's name and logo incorporates the words 'The Republican Party'. According to Fianna Fáil, "Republican here stands both for the unity of the island and a commitment to the historic principles of European republican philosophy, namely liberty, equality and fraternity."
Leader and president
Although the posts of leader and party president of Fianna Fáil are separate, with the former elected by the Parliamentary Party and the latter elected by the Ardfheis (thus allowing for the posts to be held by different people, in theory), in practice they have always been held by the one person. However, as the Ardfheis may have already been held in any given year by the time a new leader is elected, the selection of the new party president might not take place until the next year.
The following are the terms of office for the leader:
- Éamon de Valera (1926–1959)
- Seán Lemass (1959–1966)
- Jack Lynch (1966–1979)
- Charles Haughey (1979–1992)
- Albert Reynolds (1992–1994)
- Bertie Ahern (1994–2008)
- Brian Cowen (2008–2011)
- Micheál Martin (2011–present)
General election results
|Election||Dáil||Share of votes||Seats||Government||Total seats|
|1927 (Jun)||5th||26.2%||44||Cumann na nGaedhael||153|
|1927 (Sep)||6th||35.2%||57||Cumann na nGaedhael||153|
|1948||13th||41.9%||67||Fine Gael–Labour Party–Clann na Poblachta–Clann na Talmhan–National Labour||147|
|1954||15th||43.4%||65||Fine Gael–Labour Party–Clann na Talmhan||147|
|1973||20th||46.2%||68||Fine Gael–Labour Party||144|
|1981||22nd||45.3%||77||Fine Gael–Labour Party||166|
|1982 (Feb)||23rd||47.3%||81||Fianna Fáil||166|
|1982 (Nov)||24th||45.2%||75||Fine Gael–Labour Party||166|
|1989||26th||44.2%||77||Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats||166|
|1992||27th||39.1%||68||Fianna Fáil–Labour Party (1993–94)
Fine Gael–Labour Party–Democratic Left (1994–97)[A]
|1997||28th||39.3%||77||Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats||166|
|2002||29th||41.5%||81||Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats||166|
|2007||30th||41.6%||77||Fianna Fáil–Green Party–Progressive Democrats||166|
|2011||31st||17.4%||20||Fine Gael–Labour Party||166|
A In December 1994, Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Democratic Left entered into government without a general election being called.
Ógra Fianna Fáil
Fianna Fáil's youth wing is called Ógra Fianna Fáil. Formed in 1975, it plays an active role in recruiting new members and supporting election campaigns. Ógra also plays an important role in the party organisation where it currently has five representatives on the Ard Chomhairle (National Executive).
Senator Thomas Byrne was the last nominated head or Cathaoirleach (Chairperson) of Ógra Fianna Fáil, before the youth wing introduced widespread oganisational reform following the heavy electoral defeat suffered by the whole party in 2011.
Ógra have the oldest political society on any third level campus in Ireland in the Cumann de Barra NUI, Galway.
Entry into Northern Ireland politics
On 17 September 2007 Fianna Fáil announced that the party would, for the first time, organise in Northern Ireland.
The then Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern was asked to chair a committee on the matter: "In the period ahead Dermot Ahern will lead efforts to develop that strategy for carrying through this policy, examining timescales and structures. We will act gradually and strategically. We are under no illusions. It will not be easy. It will challenge us all. But I am confident we will succeed."
The party embarked on its first ever recruitment drive north of the border in September 2007 in northern universities, and established two 'Political Societies', the William Drennan Cumann in Queens University, Belfast, and the Watty Graham Cumann in UU Magee, Derry, which subsequently became official units of Fianna Fáil's youth wing, attaining full membership and voting rights, and attained official voting delegates at the 2012 Árd Fheis.
Bertie Ahern announced on 7 December 2007 that Fianna Fáil had been registered in Northern Ireland by the UK Electoral Commission. The Party's Ard Fheis in 2009 unanimously passed a motion to organise in Northern Ireland by establishing fora in each of its six counties, this has been achieved in all counties, this Ard Fheis also elected a member from Armagh, Mark Hughes to the Party's Ard Chomhairle.
There has been speculation about an eventual merger with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), formerly the main Irish nationalist party in the Northern Ireland, but now smaller than Sinn Féin. This has been met with a negative reaction with former Deputy Leader of the SDLP, Seamus Mallon, stating he would be opposed to any such merger. The former leader of the SDLP, Margaret Ritchie, also stated publicly that she would oppose any merger. At the 2010 Irish Labour Party conference she criticised Fianna Fáil's record in government and also the National Asset Management Agency On 23 February 2008, it was announced that a former UUP councillor, Colonel Harvey Bicker, had joined Fianna Fáil.
Fianna Fáil has registered with the UK Electoral Commission and is now a recognised party in Northern Ireland. It has not as yet officially contested any elections in Northern Ireland, but at the 2014 Ard Fheis a motion was passed without debate to stand candidates for election north of the border for the first time in 2019.
In European institutions
In the European Parliament from 1999 to 2009, Fianna Fáil was a leading member of Union for Europe of the Nations, a small national-conservative grouping. European political commentators had often noted substantive ideological differences between the party and its colleagues, whose strongly conservative stances had at times prompted domestic criticism of Fianna Fáil. It had previously been a member of the Union for Europe, European Democratic Alliance, and European Progressive Democrats groups.
Party headquarters, over the objections of some MEPs, had made several attempts to sever the party's links to the European right, including an aborted 2004 agreement to join the European Liberal Democrat and Reform (ELDR) Party, with whom it already sat in the Council of Europe under the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) banner. On 27 February 2009, Taoiseach Brian Cowen announced that Fianna Fáil proposed to join the ELDR Party and intended to sit with them in the ALDE Group in the European Parliament after the 2009 European elections. The change was made official on 17 April 2009, when FF joined the ELDR Party.
In October 2009, it was reported that Fianna Fáil had irritated its new Liberal colleagues by failing to vote for the motion on press freedom in Italy (resulting in its defeat by a majority of one in the Parliament) and by trying to scupper their party colleagues' initiative for gay rights. In January 2010, a report by academic experts writing for the votewatch.eu site found that FF "do not seem to toe the political line" of the ALDE Group "when it comes to budget and civil liberties" issues.
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