List of political parties in the Republic of Ireland

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There are a number of political parties in Ireland, and coalition governments are common. The state is unusual as a developed nation in that politics is not primarily characterised by the left-right political divide. The two historically largest political parties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael arose from a split that occurred in Irish politics at the time of the 1922–1923 Civil War, at the time of the foundation of the state. Both descended from factions of the original Sinn Féin party: Fine Gael from the faction that supported the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty and Fianna Fáil from the anti-Treaty faction. This enduring characteristic of the Irish party system is sometimes pejoratively referred to as "Civil War politics". The Labour Party was formed in 1912, and from the 1920s on, it has usually been the third party in parliamentary strength, though it is currently the second largest party in Dáil Éireann. In recent years, Sinn Féin has risen to prominence, surpassing the Labour Party in the 2014 local elections. Other parties have emerged to strength at different times.

Political party registration is governed by the Electoral Acts, 1992 to 2012. The Register of Political Parties is maintained by the Houses of the Oireachtas.[1] In order to be registered to contest national elections a party must have either at least one member in Dáil Éireann or the European Parliament, or 300 recorded members aged 18 or over. Parties that register only to contest elections in part of the state, in local elections or in elections to Údarás na Gaeltachta need only 100 recorded members aged 18 or over. In either case at least half of the recorded members must be on the register of electors.[2]

Political parties with elected representation at a local, national or European level[edit]

Party details[edit]

Party Current Leader English translation
/ Name in Irish
Founded Inaugural Leader Ideology Position International organisation EP Group
Fine Gael Enda Kenny "Clan of the Gaels" 1933 Eoin O'Duffy Christian democracy,
Liberal conservatism
Centre-right Centrist Democrat International EPP
Labour Party Eamon Gilmore Páirtí an Lucht Oibre 1912 James Connolly
James Larkin
William X. O'Brien
Social democracy,
Third Way
Centre-left Socialist International S&D
Fianna Fáil Micheál Martin "Soldiers of Destiny"[nb 1] 1926 Éamon de Valera Irish republicanism,
Liberal conservatism,
Populism
Centre-right Liberal International ALDE
Sinn Féin Gerry Adams "We Ourselves"[nb 2] 1905 / 1970[nb 3] Arthur Griffith Irish republicanism,
Left-wing nationalism,
Democratic socialism
Left-wing none GUE/NGL
United Left none[nb 4] 2013 none Democratic socialism Far-left none none
Socialist Party Joe Higgins Páirtí Sóisialach 1996 Joe Higgins Democratic socialism, Trotskyism Far-left Committee for a Workers' International GUE/NGL
People Before Profit Alliance none 2005 none Democratic socialism Left-wing none none
Workers and Unemployed Action Group Séamus Healy 1985 Séamus Healy Left-wing none none
Green Party Eamon Ryan Comhaontas Glas 1981 none[nb 5] Green politics Centre-left Global Greens Greens/EFA
Workers' Party Mick Finnegan Páirtí na nOibrithe 1970[nb 6] Tomás Mac Giolla Communism,
Irish republicanism,
Marxism–Leninism
Far-left Communist and Workers' Parties none
Republican Sinn Féin Des Dalton Sinn Féin Poblachtach 1986 Ruairí Ó Brádaigh Irish republicanism,
Éire Nua,
Socialism
Left-wing none none
  1. ^ More literally – Warriors of Fál, Fál being an ancient romantic name for Ireland.
  2. ^ Another common translation, though not literal, is Ourselves Alone.
  3. ^ The current party known as Sinn Féin broke from the party then known as Sinn Féin in 1970 and was initially commonly referred to as Provisional Sinn Féin.
  4. ^ Registered Officers are Clare Daly, Joan Collins, Declan Bree and Pat Dunne.
  5. ^ For the first twenty years of its existence, the Green Party did not have a national leader. Trevor Sargent was elected as the first national leader in 2001.
  6. ^ The Workers' Party emerged as the majority faction from a split in Sinn Féin in 1970, becoming known as Official Sinn Féin. In the Republic of Ireland, it renamed itself as Sinn Féin The Workers' Party in 1977. In Northern Ireland, it continued with the Republican Clubs name used by Sinn Féin to escape a 1964 ban, and later as Workers Party Republican Clubs. Both sections adopted the current name in 1982.

Party representation[edit]

Party Representation (as of June 2014)
Oireachtas European Parliament Local councils
Dáil Éireann Seanad Éireann
Fine Gael 70 18 4 235
Labour Party 34 11 0 51
Fianna Fáil 20 14 0 267
Sinn Féin[ni 1] 14 3 3 159
United Left 2 0 0 1
Socialist Party 2 0 0 0
People Before Profit Alliance 1 0 0 14
Workers and Unemployed Action Group 1 0 0 1
Anti-Austerity Alliance[ni 2] 0 0 0 14
Green Party[ni 3] 0 0 0 12
Workers' Party 0 0 0 1
Republican Sinn Féin 0 0 0 1
South Kerry Independent Alliance 0 0 0 1
  1. ^ Sinn Féin also has 5 members of the UK House of Commons, 29 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, 105 local councillors in Northern Ireland and 1 MEP representing Northern Ireland.
  2. ^ Members of the Socialist Party contested the 2014 local elections as part of the Anti-Austerity Alliance.
  3. ^ The Green Party also has one member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and 4 local councillors in Northern Ireland.

Parties represented in the Oireachtas[edit]

Fine Gael[edit]

Fine Gael is the largest party in the Oireachtas, the second largest party in local government in Ireland and has the largest delegation of MEPs from Ireland. It was founded in 1933 by a merger of the Cumann na nGaedheal, which had supported the Treaty and formed the government between 1922 and 1932, the National Guard (popularly called the Blueshirts) and the small National Centre Party. It is a member of the centre-right European People's Party and is led by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. It has been in government in the periods 1922–1932, 1948–1951, 1954–1957, 1973–1977, 1981–82, 1982–1987, 1994–1997, and 2011 to date. On each occasion, it was the leading party of a coalition with the Labour Party, and in three of those cases also with other smaller parties. At the 2011 general election, Fine Gael become the largest party in the Oireachtas with 36.1% of the vote.

Historically Fine Gael has been characterised as a centre-right party, supported by large farmers and businessmen, though this has not applied uniformly. For a period from the 1960s, for example, with the publication of the Just Society document, Fine Gael esposused some values of social democracy. During the 1980s, Fine Gael leader Garret FitzGerald advocated a liberal agenda in many areas of social reform. Historically Fine Gael has tended to support fiscal restraint and law and order domestically while adopting a less nationalist position on Northern Ireland than Fianna Fáil. Their policies now seem to emphasise a more definitive stance on upholding centre-right positions on most economic matters.[citation needed]

Fine Gael has 69 TDs, 18 Senators, 4 MEPs and 235 councillors.

Labour Party[edit]

The centre-left and social democratic side of the Republic's politics is largely represented by the Labour Party which is the state's second largest political party and has participated in coalition governments with each of the two largest parties over the years, primarily under Fine Gael's leadership. It was in coalition with Fianna Fáil from 1992 to 1994. Founded in 1912 by James Connolly as a trade union movement, until 1927 the party was the main opposition party in the Dáil. The Labour Party merged with the smaller Democratic Left party in 1999. It is a member of the Party of European Socialists and is led by Tánaiste Joan Burton.

The Labour Party has 34 TDs, 11 Senators and 51 councillors.

Fianna Fáil[edit]

Fianna Fáil is the third largest party in the Oireachtas and has the largest number of city and county council seats. It has been in government more than any other party: 1932–48, 1951–54, 1957–1973, 1977–81, 1982, 1987–1994, and 1997–2011. On all occasions up to 1989, it was in a single-party government; on all occasions since then it was the leading party in a coaltion government. It is a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party and is led by former minister Micheál Martin.

It was founded in 1926 by Éamon de Valera as a radical anti-Treaty party, drawing support from small farmers and urban workers but has since become a party of the establishment. It was first elected to power in 1932 on a constitutional republican platform, promising to destroy constitutional links with Britain and reduce poverty by creating employment. It oversaw much of the industrial development of the Republic and has consequently drawn support from all social classes, making it a classic populist party. Generally speaking, Fianna Fáil has taken more populist positions on economic and social matters than Fine Gael and the Labour Party. Their classic populist stance was highlighted during the years of Catholic dominance in Ireland before the mid-1980s and during the Celtic Tiger years when engaged in the high levels of public spending while deregulating and cutting taxes. Some argue that Fianna Fáil has traditionally been so successful as a political party as it seems to represent more of a national movement.[citation needed]

Bertie Ahern was the Taoiseach (prime minister) from 1997 to 2008. His long-standing popularity is often attributed to his 'man of the people' persona and his considerable negotiating skill, having negotiated numerous social partnership contracts, the Belfast Agreement in Northern Ireland, and an agreement among EU heads of government on the European Constitution. He was succeeded by Brian Cowen in May 2008.

In September 2007, Fianna Fáil announced that they would organise politically in the north. It is thought this may lead to a merger with the north's Social Democratic and Labour Party; however this idea has been dismissed by the leadership of the SDLP.

Support for Fianna Fáil collapsed in the 2011 general election, which took place a few years into the financial crisis and soon after the government had sought a bailout from the troika of the IMF/EC/ECB. Fianna Fáil lost more than three-quarters of its seats, coming third behind Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

Fianna Fáil has 20 TDs, 14 Senators and 267 councillors.[3]

Sinn Féin[edit]

Main article: History of Sinn Féin

The name Sinn Féin has been used by a number of political organisations in Ireland since 1905, when first used by Arthur Griffith. Sinn Féin was the party of separatism before Irish independence, and broke through in the Westminster election of 1918, where it won 73 of the 105 Irish seats.

The modern-day Sinn Féin party emerged in 1970 after a split in the party, and was often distinguished as Provisional Sinn Féin. It was closely linked to the Provisional Irish Republican Army. It is led by Gerry Adams.

It was the only political party to have seats in the parliaments of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland until the Green Party organised on an island-wide basis. Since supporting the Peace Process Sinn Féin has seen a dramatic increase in support in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland. It has emerged as the second largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly with 28 seats out of 108 and the fourth largest in the Republic of Ireland with 14 seats in the Dáil in the 2011 general election. With Fine Gael, it is one of only two parties in the Republic of Ireland with MEPs.

Sinn Féin's platform is primarily focused on achieving the reunification of Ireland and a large scale expansion of Ireland's social services (such as adopting a universal health care system and creating subsidised housing), reform of the tax system and support for small and co-operative businesses. Their political ideology mainly revolves around democratic socialism, Irish Republicanism, and civic Nationalism.[citation needed]

Sinn Féin has 14 TDs, 3 Senators, 3 MEPs and 159 councillors in the Republic of Ireland.

United Left[edit]

In April 2013 two United Left Alliance TDs, Clare Daly, then independent and formerly of the Socialist Party, and Joan Collins of the People Before Profit Alliance formed a new political party, United Left.[4] They also have a councillor, Pat Dunne on Dublin City Council. They had been part of the United Left Alliance through their former parties.

Socialist Party[edit]

The Socialist Party was formed in 1996 by far left former members of the Labour Party. It is a Marxist political party in the Trotskyist tradition and is organised in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Socialist Party was previously named the Militant Tendency of the Labour Party but was expelled in the late 1980s. Joe Higgins was its sole member of Dáil Éireann representing Dublin West between 1997 and 2007, and in 2009 was elected to the European Parliament. It was part of the United Left Alliance in the 2011 general election[5], along with the People Before Profit Alliance and the Workers and Unemployed Action Group, but the Alliance disintegrated over the course of the following Dáil term.

The party is affiliated to the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI). In 2014, it altered its registered name to Stop the Water Tax – Socialist Party.[6][1] The Socialist Party has two TDs. Its councillors contested the 2014 local elections as part of the Anti-Austerity Alliance , which won 14 seats.

People Before Profit Alliance[edit]

The People Before Profit Alliance (PBPA) was formed in 2005 by the Socialist Workers Party, subsequently absorbing the Crumlin based Community & Workers Action Group led by Joan Collins in 2007. It is a broad left alliance that seeks to gather support against neoliberalism and war, and pursues other left-wing issues.[citation needed]

The PBPA has one TD and 14 councillors in the Republic of Ireland.

Workers and Unemployed Action Group[edit]

The Workers and Unemployed Action Group (WUAG) is a left-wing political organisation formed in 1985 by Séamus Healy in response to lack of employment and the economic situation in the South Tipperary area. Healy along with his brother Paddy Healy, were former members of the Trotskyist League for a Workers Republic. Healy was elected to Dáil Éireann as TD for Tipperary South at a by-election in 2000, holding the seat until 2007. He regained the seat at the 2011 general election. At the time of the 2011 election the WUAG formed part of the United Left Alliance, but left in 2012.[5][7]

WUAG has one TD and one councillor.

Independents[edit]

As well as a number of parties, Dáil Éireann (the lower house of parliament) also often has Independent TDs (deputies) as members, who play an important role in Irish politics and are sometimes called upon to support minority governments or governments with slim majorities. They are usually elected on left-wing platforms or on local issues alone. They are listed as Non-Party on election ballots.

There are 22 TDs, 13 senators, 4 Irish MEPs and almost 200 councillors who are independent.

Parties represented only on local authorities[edit]

Green Party[edit]

The Green Party was established in 1981 and is allied to the European Green Party. It won its first seat in the Dáil in 1989, and continued to represented there until 2011. The party advocates ecologically sound and socially liberal policies. In 1994 and again in 1999, two of Ireland's 15 MEPs were from the Green party, but both seats were lost in 2004.

The Green Party of Northern Ireland voted in 2005 to become a region of the Irish Green Party making it the second party to be organised on an all-Ireland basis. It has Northern Ireland members on the Irish Green Party national executive.

In June 2007, the Green Party entered coalition government with Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. In January 2011 they left the coalition, and in the general election in February of that year, lost all of their Dáil seats.[8]

The Green Party has 12 councillors.[8]

Workers' Party[edit]

The Workers' Party is a Marxist–Leninist party allied with the international workers and communist parties. It emerged from the Irish republican movement and was a continuation of Sinn Féin that did not break away in 1970. It retained links with the Official IRA. It renamed itself Sinn Féin The Workers' Party in 1977, and adopted its current title in 1982. It is organised in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. During the 1980s it was a significant party on the political scene with 7 TDs elected in 1989 and 1 MEP. A special Ard Fheis (conference) in 1992 designed to re-constitute the party and remove links with the OIRA resulted in a formal split with the bulk of the parliamentary party and councillors leaving to form Democratic Left. Democratic Left voted to merge with the Labour Party in 1999. The Workers' Party has one councillor, Ted Tynan on Cork City Council.

Republican Sinn Féin[edit]

Republican Sinn Féin were formed in 1986 by members of Sinn Féin who did not support the decision made at the party's ard fheis in that year to end its policy of abstentionism and to allow elected Sinn Féin TDs take their seats in Dáil Éireann.[9] Its first leader was Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, who was a previous leader of Sinn Féin, and had been elected as an abstentionist TD in 1957.

They have one councillor, Tomás Ó Curraoin on Galway County Council. As they are not a registered party, he is officially an independent councillor.

Other parties with local representation[edit]

Other parties[edit]

Communist Party of Ireland[edit]

The Communist Party of Ireland was first founded in 1921, and re-founded in 1933; the current communist party originates from 1970, when the Communist Party of Northern Ireland joined with the Irish Workers' Party (not related to the current Workers Party). While a registered political party, it has not stood candidates in recent elections, and remains quite small. It was historically quite influential in the trade union movement.

éirigí[edit]

éirígí was founded in 2006 by former activists of Sinn Féin. They are registered to contest local elections only. They have also contested elections in Northern Ireland.

Socialist Workers Party[edit]

The Socialist Workers Party was founded in 1971 as the Socialist Workers Movement by supporters of the International Socialists of Britain living in Ireland. It renamed itself the Socialist Workers Party in 1995. Since 2007, it has contested elections as part of the People Before Profit Alliance. The People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett is a member of the Socialist Workers Party.

Other registered parties[edit]

Unregistered parties[edit]

Candidates for unregistered parties may choose either to be listed as "Non-Party", or to leave the section blank on the ballot paper, in the same manner as independent candidates.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Register of Political Parties in Ireland". Houses of the Oireachtas. 30 April 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Registering a political party in Ireland". Citizens' Information Board. 16 March 2009. Retrieved 2 January 2010. 
  3. ^ "Local elections results 2009". RTÉ News. Retrieved 30 June 2009. 
  4. ^ O'Connell, Hugh (25 April 2013). "Two TDs setting up new United Left political party". TheJournal.ie. Distilled Media. Retrieved 25 April 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Minihan, Mary (28 February 2011). "Higgins pledges to build new party of left as five elected under ULA banner". The Irish Times. 
  6. ^ "The Socialist Party is changing its name". TheJournal.ie. 11 March 2014. 
  7. ^ "Seamus Healy withdraws from United Left Alliance over Wallace frustrations". RTÉ News. 2 October 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  8. ^ a b O'Halloran, Marie (28 February 2011). "Regroup and rebuild is already the Green mantra after election wipeout". The Irish Times. p. 13. 
  9. ^ Abstentionism: Sinn Féin ardfheis, 1-2 November 1986 — from the CAIN project at the University of Ulster