Fianna Fáil is the third largest political party in the Oireachtas. On 12 April 2011 party leader Micheál Martin appointed a front bench consisting of all 20 of the party's Teachtaí Dála (TDs) and one councillor to be spokespersons on areas corresponding to the various government departments. This was the second front bench appointed by Martin in 10 weeks: on 31 January 2011 he had appointed a team of TDs, senators, councillors and Fianna Fáil election candidates to speak for the party on different issues in advance of the 2011 general election. The reshuffle became necessary when six sitting front bench TDs, including the deputy leader Mary Hanafin, were not re-elected. It also reflected the restructuring of government departments by the incoming Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition.
The "Official Opposition" is viewed as the party tasked with keeping the government in check. It is also generally viewed as the alternative government. The Official Opposition maintains a Front bench of TDs that often have the same portfolios as actual ministers. They are known as opposition "spokespersons".
The title of "the Opposition" is held by the largest party in Dáil Éireann which is not in government, and sometimes the Opposition may even be the largest party in the Dáil. The latter situation almost always occurred when Fianna Fáil were in opposition. This is due to the existence of the multi-party system where Fine Gael usually forms a coalition with the Labour Party.