List of Irish Leaders of the Opposition

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Leader of the Opposition
Ceannaire an Fhreasúra
Micheál Martin.jpg
Incumbent
Micheál Martin

since 9 March 2011
Term length While leader of the largest political party not in government
Inaugural holder Thomas Johnson
Formation 6 December 1922

This is a list of Irish Leaders of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition (Irish: Ceannaire an Fhreasúra) in Ireland is the politician who, de facto, leads the Parliamentary Opposition in the lower house of the Irish Parliament, Dáil Éireann. When in the Dáil, the Leader of the Opposition sits on the right-hand side of the Ceann Comhairle and directly opposite of the Taoiseach.

By convention, the Leader of the Opposition is the leader of the largest party not in government, while the Second Leader of the Opposition is the leader of the second largest party not in government. Opposition leaders leading a political party with seven members or more have full speaking rights under Dáil standing orders, meaning that smaller parties and independent politicians are unable to speak as often.

Historically the two largest parties have nearly always been Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and so the position of Leader of the Opposition has alternated between them. However, immediately following Irish secession from the UK in 1922, the leader of the Labour Party acted as Leader of the Opposition as Sinn Féin, and later Fianna Fáil, refused to take their seats in Dáil Éireann. After the 2011 general election Fine Gael became the largest party in Dáil Éireann and the Labour Party for the first time became the second largest. However, since Labour and Fine Gael entered a coalition government, the third largest party which is Fianna Fáil, leads the opposition in the 31st Dáil.

To date there have been 17 Opposition Leaders, 9 of whom have served terms as Taoiseach. The current Leader of the Opposition is Micheál Martin TD of the Fianna Fáil party, following the opening of the 31st Dáil on 9 March 2011. The current Second Leader of the Opposition is Gerry Adams TD of the Sinn Féin party. Gerry Adams is the twentieth person to hold the position of Second Leader of the Opposition.

Leader of the Opposition[edit]

  • The bold print indicates politicians who went on to become Taoiseach.
No. Name
(Birth–Death)
Portrait Constituency Term of office Party Taoiseach[nb 1]
1. Thomas Johnson
(1872–1963)
Tomjohnson.jpg Dublin County 6 December 1922 11 August 1927 Labour Party W. T. Cosgrave (1922–32)
2. Éamon de Valera
(1882–1975)
Eamon de Valera c 1922-30.jpg Clare 11 August 1927 9 March 1932 Fianna Fáil
3. W. T. Cosgrave
(1880–1965)
WTCosgrave2.jpg Cork Borough 9 March 1932 January 1944 Cumann na nGaedheal Éamon de Valera (1932–48)
Fine Gael
4. Thomas F. O'Higgins
(1890–1953)
No image.png Leix–Offaly January 1944 9 June 1944
5. Richard Mulcahy
(1886–1971)
Dickmulc.jpg Tipperary 9 June 1944 18 February 1948
(2) Éamon de Valera
(1882–1975)
Eamon de Valera c 1922-30.jpg Clare 18 February 1948 13 June 1951 Fianna Fáil John A. Costello (1948–51)
6. John A. Costello
(1891–1976)
No image.png Dublin South–East 13 June 1951 2 June 1954 Fine Gael Éamon de Valera (1951–54)
(2) Éamon de Valera
(1882–1975)
Eamon de Valera c 1922-30.jpg Clare 2 June 1954 20 March 1957 Fianna Fáil John A. Costello (1954–57)
(6) John A. Costello
(1891–1976)
No image.png Dublin South–East 20 March 1957 21 October 1959 Fine Gael Éamon de Valera (1957–59)
Seán Lemass (1959–66)
7. James Dillon
(1902–1986)
No image.png Monaghan 21 October 1959 21 April 1965
8. Liam Cosgrave
(born 1920)
No image.png Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown 21 April 1965 14 March 1973
Jack Lynch (1966–73)
9. Jack Lynch
(1917–1999)
No image.png Cork City North–West 14 March 1973 5 July 1977 Fianna Fáil Liam Cosgrave (1973–77)
10. Garret FitzGerald
(1926–2011)
Garret FitzGerald Lisbon 2009 crop.jpg Dublin South–East 5 July 1977 30 June 1981 Fine Gael Jack Lynch (1977–79)
Charles Haughey (1979–81)
11. Charles Haughey
(1925–2006)
Charles Haughey 1967.jpg Dublin North–Central 30 June 1981 9 March 1982 Fianna Fáil Garret FitzGerald (1981–82)
(10) Garret FitzGerald
(1926–2011)
Garret FitzGerald Lisbon 2009 crop.jpg Dublin South–East 9 March 1982 14 December 1982 Fine Gael Charles Haughey (1982)
(11) Charles Haughey
(1925–2006)
Charles Haughey 1967.jpg Dublin North–Central 14 December 1982 10 March 1987 Fianna Fáil Garret FitzGerald (1982–87)
12. Alan Dukes
(born 1945)
No image.png Kildare 10 March 1987 20 November 1990 Fine Gael Charles Haughey (1987–92)
13. John Bruton
(born 1947)
John Bruton.jpg Meath 20 November 1990 15 December 1994
Albert Reynolds (1992–94)
14. Bertie Ahern
(born 1951)
BertieAhernBerlin2007.jpg Dublin Central 15 December 1994 26 June 1997 Fianna Fáil John Bruton (1994–97)
(13) John Bruton
(born 1947)
John Bruton.jpg Meath 26 June 1997 9 February 2001 Fine Gael Bertie Ahern (1997–2008)
15. Michael Noonan
(born 1943)
Michael Noonan.jpg Limerick East 9 February 2001 6 June 2002
16. Enda Kenny
(born 1951)
EndaKenny.jpg Mayo 6 June 2002 9 March 2011
Brian Cowen (2008–11)
17. Micheál Martin
(born 1960)
Micheál Martin.jpg Cork South–Central 9 March 2011 Incumbent Fianna Fáil Enda Kenny (2011–present)

Third party leader[edit]

  • The italic print indicates politicians who went on to become Tánaiste.
No. Name
(Birth–Death)
Portrait Constituency Term of office Party Leader of the Opposition
1. Denis Gorey
(1874–1940)
No image.png Carlow–Kilkenny 6 December 1922 May 1927 Farmers' Party Thomas Johnson (1922–27)
2. Michael Heffernan
(1885–1970)
No image.png Tipperary May 1927 11 August 1927
3. Thomas Johnson
(1872–1963)
Tomjohnson.jpg Dublin County 11 August 1927 11 October 1927 Labour Party Éamon de Valera (1927–32)
4. Thomas J. O'Connell
(1882–1969)
No image.png Mayo South 11 October 1927 9 March 1932
5. William Norton
(1900–1963)
No image.png Kildare 9 March 1932 8 February 1933 W. T. Cosgrave (1932–44)
6. Frank MacDermot
(1886–1975)
No image.png Roscommon 8 February 1933 8 September 1933 National Centre Party
(5) William Norton
(1900–1963)
No image.png Kildare (1932–1937)
Carlow–Kildare (1937–1948)
8 September 1933 7 January 1945 Labour Party
Thomas F. O'Higgins (1944)
Richard Mulcahy (1944–48)
7. Joseph Blowick
(1903–1970)
No image.png Mayo South 7 January 1945 18 February 1948 Clann na Talmhan
None 18 February 1948 13 June 1951 Éamon de Valera (1948–51)
(5) William Norton
(1900–1963)
No image.png Kildare 13 June 1951 2 June 1954 Labour Party John A. Costello (1951–54)
8. Seán MacBride
(1904–1988)
Seán MacBride 1984.jpg Dublin South–West 2 June 1954 20 March 1957 Clann na Poblachta Éamon de Valera (1954–57)
(5) William Norton
(1900–1963)
No image.png Kildare 20 March 1957 2 March 1960 Labour Party John A. Costello (1957–59)
James Dillon (1959–65)
9. Brendan Corish
(1918–1990)
No image.png Wexford 2 March 1960 14 March 1973
Liam Cosgrave (1965–73)
None 14 March 1973 5 July 1977 Jack Lynch (1973–77)
10. Frank Cluskey
(1930–1989)
No image.png Dublin South–Central 5 July 1977 12 June 1981 Labour Party Garret FitzGerald (1977–81)
None 12 June 1981 17 June 1981
11. Michael O'Leary
(1936–2006)
No image.png Dublin North–Central 17 June 1981 30 June 1981 Labour Party
12. Joe Sherlock
(1930–2007)
No image.png Cork East 30 June 1981 9 March 1982 Sinn Féin the Workers Party Charles Haughey (1981–82)
(11) Michael O'Leary
(1936–2006)
No image.png Dublin Central 9 March 1982 1 November 1982 Labour Party Garret FitzGerald (1982)
13. Dick Spring
(born 1950)
No image.png Kerry North 1 November 1982 14 December 1982
14. Tomás Mac Giolla
(1924–2010)
TMacGiolla.jpg Dublin West 14 December 1982 21 December 1985 Workers' Party Charles Haughey (1982–87)
15. Desmond O'Malley
(born 1939)
No image.png Limerick East 21 December 1985 29 June 1989 Progressive Democrats
Alan Dukes (1987–90)
(13) Dick Spring
(born 1950)
No image.png Kerry North 29 June 1989 14 December 1992 Labour Party
John Bruton (1990–94)
(15) Desmond O'Malley
(born 1939)
No image.png Limerick East 14 December 1992 12 October 1993 Progressive Democrats
16. Mary Harney
(born 1953)
Mary Harney cropped.jpg Dublin South–West 12 October 1993 18 November 1994
(13) Dick Spring
(born 1950)
No image.png Kerry North 18 November 1994 15 December 1994 Labour Party
(16) Mary Harney
(born 1953)
Mary Harney cropped.jpg Dublin South–West 15 December 1994 26 June 1997 Progressive Democrats Bertie Ahern (1994–97)
(13) Dick Spring
(born 1950)
No image.png Kerry North 26 June 1997 13 November 1997 Labour Party John Bruton (1997–2001)
17. Ruairi Quinn
(born 1946)
Ruairi Quinn 2011.jpg Dublin South-East 13 November 1997 25 October 2002
Michael Noonan (2001–02)
Enda Kenny (2002–11)
18. Pat Rabbitte
(born 1949)
Pat Rabbitte, May 2015 (cropped).jpg Dublin South-West 25 October 2002 6 September 2007
19. Eamon Gilmore
(born 1955)
Eamon Gilmore Conference 2010 cropped.jpg Dún Laoghaire 6 September 2007 9 March 2011
20. Gerry Adams
(born 1948)
Gerry Adams 2013.jpg Louth 9 March 2011 Incumbent Sinn Féin Micheál Martin (2011–present)

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Before the enactment of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland, the head of government was referred to as the President of the Executive Council.