List of political parties in the Republic of Ireland
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politics and government of
the Republic of Ireland
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. This is because the two historically largest political parties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael do not identify themselves first and foremost as either centre-right or centre-left parties. Rather, both parties arose from the great split that occurred in Irish politics at the time of the 1922–1923 Civil War, that followed 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".
- 1 Political parties with elected representation at a local, national or international level
- 2 Parties represented in the Oireachtas
- 3 Parties without Oireachtas representation
- 4 See also
- 5 References
Political parties with elected representation at a local, national or international level
- More literally – Warriors of Fál, Fál being a ancient romantic name for Ireland.
- Another common translation, though not literal, is Ourselves Alone.
- The current party known as Sinn Féin broke from the party then known as Sinn Féin in 1970 and was founded as Provisional Sinn Féin.
- 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.
- 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 (as of Dec. 2013)|
|Oireachtas||Local councils||European Parliament|
|Dáil Éireann||Seanad Éireann|
|Sinn Féin[nc 1]||14||3||127||0|
|People Before Profit Alliance||1||0||5||0|
|Workers and Unemployed Action Group||1||0||7||0|
|Green Party[nc 2]||0||0||17||0|
|South Kerry Independent Alliance||0||0||2||0|
|Republican Sinn Féin||0||0||1||0|
- Sinn Féin also has 5 members of the UK House of Commons, 29 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, 138 local councillors in Northern Ireland and 1 MEP representing Northern Ireland.
- The Green Party also has one member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and 3 local councillors in Northern Ireland.
Parties represented in the Oireachtas
Fine Gael is the largest party in the Oireachtas and is the largest party in local government in Ireland and has more MEPs than any other Irish party. It was founded in 1933 by a merger of the pro-Treaty Cumann na nGaedheal, the National Guard (popularly called the 'Blueshirts') and the small National Centre Party. While historically Fine Gael has often been viewed as a centre-right party, supported by large farmers and businessmen, this characterisation is perhaps simplistic. For a period in the 1960s, for example, with the publication of the famous Just Society document, Fine Gael identified with the values of social democracy. Furthermore, during the 1980s, Fine Gael leader Garret FitzGerald advocated the liberal agenda. It is now a member of the conservative, Christian Democratic, European People's Party. 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. It has formed government in the periods 1922–1932 (Cumman na nGaedhael), 1948–1951, 1954–1957, 1973–1977, 1981–82, 1982–1987, 1994–1997, and 2011 to date. It has been supported in coalition on all occasions since 1948, by the Labour party, and in three of those cases with other smaller groups.
The 2011 general election saw Fine Gael becoming the largest party in the Oireachtas with 36.1% of the vote. Their policies now seem to emphasis a more definitive stance by Fine Gael on upholding centre-right positions on most economic and social matters.
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.
Hoping to create a stronger left-wing force, the Labour Party merged with the smaller Democratic Left party in 1999 but this has not had as much impact as was hoped. The party's previous leader, Pat Rabbitte (a former Democratic Left member), had expressed a strong preference for coalition with Fine Gael over Fianna Fáil.
The situation has changed owing to the relatively inconclusive result of the 2007 general election. The current leader, Eamon Gilmore (also a former Democratic Left member) has expressed his desire to build the Labour Party nationally to become the size of a main opposition party in locally and in Seanad and Dáil seats rather than "the half size party electorally compared to the other 2 main parties Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael". He has expressed a desire for an independent election platform rather than preference for coalition with Fine Gael which was the case under the previous leader Pat Rabbitte. Eamon Gilmore has also said that he intended to take the Labour Party into the next election with the aim of becoming the largest party in the Dáil and to lead the resulting government.
The Labour Party is represented by 34 TDs, 11 Senators, 2 MEPs, and 188 councillors nationally. It is the largest party on both Dublin and Galway City Councils and South Dublin and Fingal County Councils.
Fianna Fáil is the third largest party in the Oireachtas (parliament) and the second largest as regards to total local council seats. It is republican in outlook, rejects (as current FF leader Míchéal Martin has made reference to) the political labels of "Left Wing" and "Right Wing" and prefers to occupy the pragmatic centre ground. 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 always taken more populist positions on economic and social matters than their rivals Fine Gael and Labour. 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 it dangerously engaged in the spending levels of a more left wing party while deregulating and cutting taxes from a more right wing perspective. Some argue that Fianna Fáil has traditionally been so successful as a political party as it seems to represent more of a national movement rather than the traditional left-right zeal of the more politically unsuccessful parties in Irish politics. Comparisons have been drawn to Fianna Fáil as always acting, since its inception, as a mirror image of the UK's New Labour Party in the 1990s- emphasising the need to appeal to the urban working classes while maintaining the image of economic and capitalistic competence. One Fianna Fáil member is often referred to as saying, "Fine Gael have their people, Labour have their people but Fianna Fáil, we're for all the people".
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. Brian Cowen resigned on 22 January 2011.
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 current leader of the SDLP.
Due in part to the Irish economic downturn, Fianna Fáil saw more than three-quarters of its sitting TDs lose their seat in the 2011 general election, coming third behind Fine Gael and the Labour Party.
The name Sinn Féin has been applied to a series of political movements since 1905 in Ireland, each of which claim or claimed sole descent from the original party established by Arthur Griffith in 1905. The largest of the modern-day Sinn Féin parties was closely linked to the Provisional Irish Republican Army and 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 fifth largest in the Republic of Ireland with 4 seats in the Dáil in the 2007 general election). 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.
Sinn Féin is represented in the Republic of Ireland by 14 TDs, 3 Senators and 127 councillors.
United Left Alliance
Prior to the 2011 general election the United Left Alliance was formed by the Socialist Party (SP), the People Before Profit Alliance (PBPA) and the Workers and Unemployed Action Group (WUAG). The alliance won five seats (two SP, two PBPA and one WUAG)  In October 2012 the WUAG left the United Left Alliance following disagreements with the Socialist Party and People Before Profit Alliance over the tax affairs of Independent TD Mick Wallace. In April 2013 two United Left Alliance TDs, Clare Daly (independent) and Joan Collins (PBPA) formed their own political party, United Left.
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. The party is affiliated to the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI).
The Socialist Party is represented by one TD, six councillors and one MEP.
People Before Profit Alliance
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. The alliance succeeded in having five councillors elected in 2009.
The PBPA is represented by one TD and five councillors.
Workers and Unemployed Action Group
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.
The WUAG is represented by one TD and five councillors.
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.
Parties without Oireachtas representation
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 into coalition government with Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats in the Republic of Ireland. In January 2011 they left the coalition, and in the general election in February of that year, lost all of their Dáil seats.
The Green Party is represented by 3 county councillors and 13 town councillors.
The Workers' Party is a Marxist-Leninist party allied with the international workers and communist parties. It emerged from the Irish republican movement and from the original Sinn Féin but the name was changed to the Workers' Party 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. However the party was tainted with associations with the Official IRA. 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 2 councillors, Ted Tynan on Cork City Council and Davy Walsh on Waterford City Council.
Communist Party of Ireland
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.
The following parties are on the Register of Political Parties maintained under the Electoral Acts 1992–2002. 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.
- Catholic Democrats (The National Party)
- Christian Solidarity Party
- Communist Party of Ireland
- Direct Democracy Ireland
- Éirígí (Local elections only)
- Fís Nua
- Letterkenny Residents Party (Elections in Letterkenny area only)
- Seniors Solidarity Party (Local elections in County Dublin only)
- Socialist Workers Party (Part of People Before Profit Alliance)
- South Kerry Independent Alliance (Elections in South Kerry only)
Unregistered parties are entitled to contest elections. However, the party's name will not appear on the ballot paper, and they are described in official results as "non-party".
- Irish Republican Socialist Party
- Irish Socialist Network
- Pirate Party Ireland
- Republican Sinn Féin
- United Left Alliance (Alliance of Socialist Party, PBPA and WUAG founded 2010, WUAG left in 2012, Socialist Party left in 2013)
- "Local elections results 2009". RTÉ News. Retrieved 30 June 2009.
- Minihan, Mary (28 February 2011). "Higgins pledges to build new party of left as five elected under ULA banner". The Irish Times.
- "Seamus Healy withdraws from United Left Alliance over Wallace frustrations". RTÉ News. 2 October 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
- O'Halloran, Marie (28 February 2011). "Regroup and rebuild is already the Green mantra after election wipeout". The Irish Times. p. 13.
- "Register of Political Parties in Ireland". Houses of the Oireachtas. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
- "Registering a political party in Ireland". Citizens' Information Board. 16 March 2009. Retrieved 2 January 2010.