|Leader||Enda Kenny, TD|
|Founder||W. T. Cosgrave,
|Deputy leader||James Reilly, TD|
|Founded||8 September 1933|
|Merger of||Cumann na nGaedheal,
National Centre Party,
|Headquarters||51 Upper Mount Street,
Dublin 2, Ireland
|Youth wing||Young Fine Gael|
|Political position||Centre-right to centre|
|International affiliation||Centrist Democrat International|
|European Parliament group||European People's Party|
Fine Gael (Irish pronunciation: [ˈfʲɪnʲə ˈɡˠeːl̪ˠ] – meaning Family or Tribe of the Irish) is a centre-right to centrist political party in the Republic of Ireland. It is the largest party in Ireland in the Oireachtas, in local government, and in terms of Members of the European Parliament. The party has a membership of over 35,000, and is the senior partner governing in a coalition with the Labour Party, with the Fine Gael party leader Enda Kenny serving as Taoiseach. Enda Kenny has led the party since 2002.
Fine Gael was founded on 8 September 1933 following the merger of its parent party Cumann na nGaedheal, the National Centre Party and the National Guard (popularly known as the "Blueshirts", a name still used colloquially to refer to the party). Its origins lie in the struggle for Irish independence and the pro-Treaty side in the Irish Civil War, identifying in particular Michael Collins as the founder of the movement.
Fine Gael is sometimes considered to be more on the political right in comparison to its main rival, Fianna Fáil. But Fine Gael has rarely governed Ireland without the Labour Party, a social-democratic party on the centre-left of Irish politics, apart from brief minority governments, as in 1987. Fine Gael describes itself as a "party of the progressive centre" conforming strongly to the ideals of Christian democracy and compassionate centrism, and is often seen as being moderate on social issues but conservative as regards economics. The party lists its core values as equality of opportunity, fiscal rectitude, free enterprise and reward, individual rights and responsibilities. It is strongly in favour of the European Union and opposed to physical force republicanism. The party's youth wing, Young Fine Gael, was formed in 1977, and has approximately four thousand members. Fine Gael is a founding member of the European People's Party and a member of the Centrist Democrat International.
Ideology and policies
Law and order party
Although Ireland's political spectrum was traditionally divided along Civil War lines, rather than the traditional European left-right spectrum, Fine Gael is described generally as a centre-right, Christian democratic party, with a focus on law and order, enterprise and reward, and fiscal rectitude. As the descendant of the pro-Treaty factions in the Irish Civil War, Fine Gael has a strong affinity with Michael Collins and his legacy. He remains a symbol for the party, and the anniversary of his death is commemorated each year in August.
Fine Gael has, since its inception, portrayed itself as a party of fiscal rectitude and minimal government interference in economics, advocating pro-enterprise policies. Newly elected politicians for the party in the Dáil have strongly advocated liberal economic policies. Lucinda Creighton and Leo Varadkar in particular have been seen as strong advocates of a neoliberal approach to Ireland's economics woes and Ireland's unemployment problems. Varadkar in particular has been a strong proponent of small, indigenous business, advocating that smaller firms should benefit from the government's recapitalisation program Its former finance spokesman Richard Bruton's proposals have been seen as approaching problems from a pro-enterprise point of view. Its fairer budget website suggests that its solutions are "tough but fair". Other solutions conform generally to conservative governments' policies throughout Europe, focusing on cutting numbers in the public sector, while maintaining investment in infrastructure.
Fine Gael's proposals have been criticised mostly by smaller political groupings in Ireland, and by some of the trade unions, who have raised the idea that the party's solutions are more conscious of business interests than the interests of the worker. The SIPTU trade union has stated its opposition to Enda Kenny's assertion that the national wage agreement should be suspended. Kenny's comments have support however and the party attributes its significant rise in polls in 2008 to this. In spite of this perceived opposition to Fine Gael from the left of the Irish political spectrum, the party, due to Dáil arithmetic, has never entered into national government without the backing of the Labour Party.
Fine Gael's Simon Coveney launched what the party termed a radical re-organisation of the Irish Semi-State Company sector. Styled the New Economy and Recovery Authority (or NewERA), Coveney said that it is an economic stimulus plan that will "reshape the Irish economy for the challenges of the 21st century". Requiring an €18.2 billion investment in Energy, Communications and Water infrastructure over a four-year period, it was promoted as a way to enhance energy security and digital reputation of Ireland. A very broad ranging document, it proposes the combined management of a portfolio of semi-state assets, and the sale of all other, non-essential services. The release of equity through the sale of the various state resources, including electricity generation services belonging to the ESB, Bord na Móna and Bord Gáis, in combination with use of money in the National Pensions Reserve Fund, is the means by which Fine Gael is proposing to fund its national stimulus package.
The plan is a seen at being the basis of a Fine Gael program for government. Seen as being the longer term contribution to Fine Gael's economic plan, it has been publicised in combination with a more short term policy proposal from FG TD, Dr. Leo Varadkar. This document, termed "Hope for a Lost Generation", promises to bring 30,000 young Irish people off the Live Register in a year by combining a National Internship Program, a Second Chance Education Scheme, an Apprenticeship Guarantee and Community Work Program, as well as instituting a German style, Workshare program.
Commentary on the FG's economic proposals has generally been positive from some economic commentators including Eddie Hobbs and David McWilliams who have praised the proposals stating that they have considerable potential. Eamon Gilmore's Labour Party has launched policies which are seen to be broadly consistent with the FG platform.
Constitutional reform policies
Fine Gael is seen as being a constitutional party, with members and public representatives always showing considerable deference to the institutional organs of the Irish state. The party leadership has been eager to be seen to engage in an ongoing constitutional debate in Ireland on the topic of political reform. The debate which has been monitored by the Irish Times in its Renewing the Republic opinion pieces, has largely centred on the make up of the Oireachtas, the Irish parliament. FG's Phil Hogan TD, has published the party's answer to the political and constitutional reform question. In a policy document entitled New Politics, deputy Hogan has suggested creating a country with "a smaller, more dynamic and more responsive political system," reducing the size of the Dáil by 20, changing the way the Dáil works, and in a controversial move, abolishing the Irish senate, Seanad Éireann.
Aiming to carry out the parties proposals through a series of constitutional referendums, the proposals were echoed by Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, when he proposed his own constitutional crusade at his 2010 party conference, shortly after.
Fine Gael was traditionally conservative in social matters for most of the twentieth century, due to the conservative Christian ethos of Irish society during this time. Its members are variously influence by Christian democracy, liberalism and social democracy on issues of social policy. Under Garret FitzGerald, the party's more liberal or pluralist wing gained prominence. Proposals to allow divorce were put by referendum by two Fine Gael–led governments, in 1986 under FitzGerald, and in 1995 under John Bruton, passing very narrowly on this second attempt.
Fine Gael supported civil unions for same-sex couples from 2003, voting for the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Bill 2010, and the party approved a motion at its 2012 Ard Fheis to prioritise the consideration of same-sex marriage in the upcoming constitutional convention. The party has run advertisements in GCN (Gay Community News) advertising its commitments to same-sex couples.
The Irish health system, being administered centrally by the Health Service Executive, is seen to be poor by comparison to other countries in Europe, ranking outside expected levels at 25th according to the Euro Health Consumer Index 2006. Fine Gael wants Ireland to break with the system of private health insurance, public medical cards and what it calls the two tiers of the health system and has launched a campaign to see the system reformed. Speaking in favour of the campaign, Fine Gael health spokesman James Reilly stated "Over the last 10 years the health service has become a shambles. We regularly have over 350 people on trolleys in A&E, waiting lists that go on for months, outpatient waiting lists that go on for years and cancelled operations across the country..."
Fine Gael launched its FairCare campaign and website in April 2009, which states that the health service would be reformed away from a costly ineffective endeavour, into a publicly regulated system where compulsory universal health insurance would replace the existing provisions.
This strategy was criticised by Fianna Fáil Minister for Children, Barry Andrews. The spokesperson for family law and children, Alan Shatter TD, robustly defended its proposals as the only means of reducing public expenditure, and providing a service in Ireland more akin to the Canadian, Dutch and German health systems.
Fine Gael is among the most pro-European integration parties in the Republic of Ireland, having supported the European Constitution, the Lisbon Treaty, and advocating participation in European common defence. Under Enda Kenny, the party has questioned Irish neutrality, with Kenny claiming that "the truth is, Ireland is not neutral. We are merely unaligned."
Fine Gael is a founding member of the European People's Party (EPP), the largest European political party comprising conservative and Christian democratic national-level parties from across Europe. Fine Gael's MEPs sit with the EPP Group in the European Parliament, and FG parliamentarians also sit with the EPP Groups in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Committee of the Regions. Young Fine Gael is a member of the Youth of the European People's Party (YEPP).
It is inferred from Fine Gael's relationship to European counterparts via membership of the European People's Party that FG belongs on the centre-right. The party conforms generally with European political parties that identify themselves as being Christian democratic. Some younger parliamentarians are identified with the centre-right. The Irish Times supplement described front bench member Leo Varadkar TD as having explicitly centre-right views.
At the 2011 general election, Fine Gael gained 25 seats bringing them to a total of 76. The party ran candidates in all 43 constituencies, and had candidates elected in every constituency except Dublin North–West.
Fine Gael won 19 seats in Seanad Éireann following the 2011 election, a gain of four from the previous election in 2007.
At the 2009 Local elections held on 5 June 2009, Fine Gael won 556 seats, surpassing Fianna Fáil which won 407 seats, and making Fine Gael the largest party of local government nationally. They gained 88 seats from their 2004 result.
At 2009 European Parliament election held on the same day as the Local elections, which saw a reduction in the number seats from 13 to 12 for Ireland, the party won four seats, retaining the largest number of seats of an Irish party in the European Parliament. This was a loss of one seat from its 2004 result.
While Fine Gael was responsible for the initial nomination of the uncontested, first President of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, a Fine Gael candidate has never won an election to the office of President. The most recent Fine Gael presidential candidate, Gay Mitchell, finished fourth in the 2011 presidential election, with 6.4% of the vote. In 2004, Fine Gael supported the re-election of President Mary McAleese.
Planning and Payment Tribunals
The Moriarty Tribunal has sat since 1997 and has investigated the granting of a mobile phone license to Esat Telecom by Michael Lowry when he was Fine Gael Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications in the Rainbow Coalition of the mid-1990s. Lowry resigned from the Cabinet after it was revealed at the Moriarty Tribunal that businessman Ben Dunne had paid for an IR£395,000 extension to Lowry's Tipperary home. Lowry, now an independent TD, supported the Fianna Fáil–Green Party government in Dáil Éireann until March 2011.
It was also revealed in December 1996 that Fine Gael had received some £180,000 from Ben Dunne in the period 1987 to 1993. This was composed of £100,000 in 1993, £50,000 in 1992 and £30,000 in 1989. In addition, Michael Noonan received £3,000 in 1992 towards his election campaign, Ivan Yates received £5,000, Michael Lowry received £5,000 and Sean Barrett received £1,000 in the earlier 1987 election. John Bruton said he had received £1,000 from Dunne in 1982 towards his election campaign. and Dunne had also given £15,000 to the Labour Party during the 1990 Presidential election campaign.
Following revelations at the Moriarty Tribunal on 16 February 1999, in relation to Charles Haughey and his relationship with AIB, former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald confirmed that AIB and Ansbacher wrote off debts of almost £200,000 that he owed in 1993, when he was in financial difficulties because of the collapse of the aircraft leasing company, GPA, in which he was a shareholder. The write-off occurred after Dr Fitzgerald left politics and Dr. Fitzgerald also said he believed his then Fine Gael colleague, Peter Sutherland, who was chairman of AIB at the time, was unaware of the situation.
Mayo TD Enda Kenny was elected leader of Fine Gael in a secret ballot of the parliamentary party on 5 June 2002. Kenny defeated Richard Bruton, Phil Hogan and Gay Mitchell in the leadership election, which was triggered by the resignation of Michael Noonan following the 2002 general election. The position of deputy leader has been held since July 2010 by James Reilly. It was previously held by Dublin North–Central TD Richard Bruton from 2002 until 2010. He was preceded as deputy leader by Jim Mitchell.
List of party leaders
|Part of a series on|
|W. T. Cosgrave||1934–44||Carlow–Kilkenny|
|Liam Cosgrave||1965–77||Dún Laoghaire|
|Garret FitzGerald||1977–87||Dublin South–East|
|Alan Dukes||1987–90||Kildare South|
|Michael Noonan||2001–02||Limerick East|
General election results
|Election||Dáil||Share of votes||Seats||Government||Total seats|
|1948||13th||19.8%||31||Fine Gael–Labour Party–Clann na Poblachta–Clann na Talmhan–National Labour||147|
|1954||15th||32.0%||50||Fine Gael–Labour Party–Clann na Talmhan||147|
|1973||20th||35.1%||54||Fine Gael–Labour Party||144|
|1981||22nd||39.2%||65||Fine Gael–Labour Party||166|
|1982 (Feb)||23rd||37.3%||63||Fianna Fáil||166|
|1982 (Nov)||24th||39.2%||70||Fine Gael–Labour Party||166|
|1989||26th||29.3%||55||Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats||166|
|1992||27th||24.5%||45||Fianna Fáil–Labour Party (1992–94)
Fine Gael–Labour Party–Democratic Left (1994–97)[A]
|1997||28th||27.9%||54||Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats||166|
|2002||29th||22.5%||31||Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats||166|
|2007||30th||27.3%||51||Fianna Fáil–Green Party-Progressive Democrats||166|
|2011||31st||36.1%||76||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.
Young Fine Gael
Young Fine Gael (YFG) is the youth movement of Fine Gael. It was founded in 1976 by the then leader Garret Fitzgerald. It caters for young people under 30 with an interest in Fine Gael and politics, in cities, towns, parishes and third level colleges throughout Ireland. YFG has 4,000 members nationwide. YFG is led by its national executive consisting of eleven members elected on a regional basis, and on a national panel.
Notes and references
- Analysis - Irish referendum puts Sinn Fein in the spotlight. Padraic Halpin. Reuters.
- T. Banchoff (28 June 1999). Legitimacy and the European Union. Taylor & Francis. pp. 126–. ISBN 978-0-415-18188-4. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- Parties and Elections in Europe: The database about parliamentary elections and political parties in Europe, by Wolfram Nordsieck
- Halpin, Padraic (13 October 2010). "Factbox – Ireland's Political Parties". Reuters. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
- "Irish election likely at end of March - opposition". Reuters. 7 January 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
- "Irish PM's support slumps to record low: poll". EUbusiness.com. 3 December 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
- "Affairs of the Nation - Lurch to the right lies ahead". The Phoenix. 11 February 2011. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
- "Irreconcilable differences?". The Sunday Business Post. 5 December 2010. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
- Saunders, Doug (25 November 2010). "Ireland’s crisis lends a boost to Sinn Féin". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved 11 January 2011.
- Ireland: Fine Gael to open talks on new government (28 February 2011). The Telegraph (London) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ireland/8352119/Ireland-Fine-Gael-to-open-talks-on-new-government.html
|url=missing title (help).
- Angus Reid Global Monitor Retrieved 10 May 2009.
- Fine Gael. Your Fine Gael. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- "Enda Kenny elected Fine Gael leader". RTÉ News. 5 June 2002. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
- "History of Fine Gael". Generalmichaelcollins.com. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- "Legacy of the Easter Rising". The Irish Times. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
- "FG Values". David Stanton website. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
- "Our Values". Young Fine Gael. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
- "Election 2007 – Youth parties". RTÉ News. Archived from the original on 14 May 2007. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
-  Fine Gael is a party of fiscal rectitude. Retrieved on 19 January 2010.
- The Hogan Stand (21 September 2005). Michael Collins' view of life in Achill Gaeltacht. Retrieved on 31 October 2007.
- "Lucinda CREIGHTON TD » Economy Vision". Lucindacreighton.ie. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- "Leo Varadkar » Small Business Fund must be included in recapitalisation plan". Leovaradkar.ie. 16 December 2008. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- "fairerbudget.com". fairerbudget.com. Retrieved 22 November 2010.
- "Union criticises FG on wage agreements position while FG gains 35% in polls". Rte.ie. 23 November 2008. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- Fine Gael. 2007 General Election Manifesto. Retrieved on 31 October 2007.
- FG's New Era policy commentated on by RTÉ - http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/0326/economy.html, RTÉ Website, 26 April 2010
- FG Launches 11bn Euro Stimulus Plan - http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/0326/economy2-business.html, RTÉ Website, 26 April 2010
- FG Hope for a Lost Generation Document - http://yfg.ie/downloads/2010JobsLeaflet.pdf, Young Fine Gael website, 26 April 2010
- Gilmore's Economic Policies and Fine gael - http://www.thepost.ie/story/text/eyidqlsnql/, The Sunday Post, 26 April 2010
- "Irish Times on Kenny Conference Speech, 26 April 2010". M.irishtimes.com. 20 March 2010. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- Commentary of Gilmore conference speech and Labour consistency with FG policy - http://www.thepost.ie/story/text/eyidqlsnql/, 26 April 2010
- "Referendum 26 June 1986 Dissolution of Marriage". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
- "Referendum 24 November 1995 Dissolution of Marriage". ElectionsIreland.org. 24 November 1995. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- Walshe, John (25 May 2006). "Students split on compulsory Irish for Leaving Cert". Irish Independent. Retrieved 22 November 2010.
- "Forcing students to learn Irish has failed, says Hayes". The Irish Times. 15 April 2010. Retrieved 22 November 2010.
- "Euro Health Consumer Index 2006" (PDF). Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- "Dr. James O' Rehilly comments on health service". Irishtimes.com. 27 April 2009. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- "Fine Gael launch Fair Care Website and campaign". Faircare.ie. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- National Forum on Europe (26 October 2006). Enda Kenny calls for Unified EU Approach to Immigration. Retrieved on 31 October 2007.
- National Forum on Europe (3 April 2003). Should we back a pledge to defend others if they come under attack?. Retrieved on 31 October 2007
- "Fine Gael - MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 31 October 2009.
- Encyclopedia of British and Irish ... - Google Libri. Books.google.it. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- Valencia (7 January 2007). "What Fine Gael needs to do is find its bottom - National News, Frontpage". Independent.ie. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- Fine Gael’s European Strategy « EAST WEST EUROPE | Ireland and the Wider Europe, 2008[dead link]
- "Centre-right views, outspoken, seen by some as arrogant at times". Irishtimes.com. 20 November 2010. Retrieved 1 January 2011.
- "2009 Local Elections". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 6 September 2009.
- "Elections 2009 – European Elections: National Summary". RTÉ News. Retrieved 6 September 2009.
- "2011 Presidential Election". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
- The Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/archive/1996/1205/Pg001.html
|url=missing title (help).
- "RTÉ News: AIB and Ansbacher wrote off Fitzgerald's £200,000 debt". Rte.ie. 17 February 1999. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- "Richard Bruton sacked as FG deputy leader". RTÉ News. 14 June 2010. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
- O'Duffy did not hold a seat in the Oireachtas while he was party leader.
- While Mulcahy was a member of the Seanad in 1944, Tom O'Higgins acted as parliamentary party leader.
- Between 1948 and 1959, John A. Costello served as parliamentary leader.
- RTÉ News. 2007 General Election. . Retrieved on 1 July 2009
- Nealon's Guide to the 29th Dáil and Seanad (Gill and Macmillan, 2002) (ISBN 0-7171-3288-9)
- Stephen Collins, "The Cosgrave Legacy" (Blackwater, 1996) (ISBN 0-86121-658-X)
- Garret FitzGerald, "Garret FitzGerald: An Autobiography" (Gill and Macmillan, 1991) (ISBN 0-7171-1600-X)
- Jack Jones, In Your Opinion: Political and Social Trends in Ireland through the Eyes of the Electorate (Townhouse, 2001) (ISBN 1-86059-149-3)
- Maurice Manning, James Dillon: A Biography (Wolfhound, 1999/2000) (ISBN 0-86327-823-X)
- Stephen O'Byrnes, Hiding Behind a Face: Fine Gael under FitzGerald (Gill and Macmillan: 1986) (ISBN 0-7171-1448-1)
- Raymond Smith, Garret: The Enigma (Aherlow, 1985) (no ISBN)
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