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There are a number of political parties in Ireland, and coalition governments are common. The two traditionally largest parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, arose from a split in the original Sinn Féin, Fine Gael from the faction (Cumann na nGaedheal) that supported the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty and Fianna Fáil from the anti-Treaty faction. The division on the Treaty had also caused the Irish Civil War (1922–23), leading to the difference between the parties being described as "Civil War politics", to distinguish it from a more common left-right political divide.
As of the 2020 general election, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are joint first parties in party representation in Dáil Éireann, while Fine Gael is a close third behind them. The Green Party surpassed the Labour Party in the same general election. The Labour Party was formed in 1912, and it had usually been the third party in parliamentary strength, though it is currently the joint fifth party with the Social Democrats.
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. 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.
Political parties with representation at a local, national or European level
|Party||Representation (as of Oct. 2020)|
|Oireachtas||Local councils||European Parliament|
|Dáil Éireann||Seanad Éireann|
|Sinn Féin[ni 1]||37||4||80||1|
|Inds. 4 Change||1||0||3||2|
|Human Dignity Alliance||0||1||0||0|
|Workers and Unemployed Action||0||0||1||0|
|Kerry Independent Alliance||0||0||1||0|
|Republican Sinn Féin||0||0||1||0|
- Sinn Féin also has 7 members of the UK House of Commons, 27 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, 105 local councillors in Northern Ireland.
- The Green Party also has 2 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and 8 local councillors in Northern Ireland.
- People Before Profit also has 1 member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and 5 local councillors in Northern Ireland.
- Aontú also has 2 local councillors in Northern Ireland.
Parties and groupings represented in the Oireachtas
Fianna Fáil is the joint largest party in the Dáil and has the largest number of city and county council seats. It has been in government more than any other party: 1932–1948, 1951–1954, 1957–1973, 1977–1981, 1982, 1987–1994, and 1997–2011, and 2020 to date. 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 coalition government. It is a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party and is led by Taoiseach 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 remove 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.
Sinn Féin is the joint largest party in the Dáil and the second-largest party in the Northern Assembly. The name Sinn Féin, meaning 'ourselves', 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 Mary Lou McDonald.
Fine Gael is the third largest party in the Dáil, 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 Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. It has been in government in the periods 1922–1932, 1948–1951, 1954–1957, 1973–1977, 1981–1982, 1982–1987, 1994–1997, and 2011–2020. On each occasion until 2016, 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 became the largest party in the Oireachtas with 36.1% of the vote.
The Green Party was established in 1981 and is allied to the European Green Party. 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 at the 2011 general election, lost all of their Dáil seats.
In the 2020 election, they gained over (10 including their by-election win in 2019) 9 TDs for the first time in its history and becoming the fourth position in parliamentary strength.
The Green Party has 12 TDs, 4 Senators, 2 MEPs and 46 councillors.
The Labour Party is a social democratic party, founded in 1912 as part of the trade union movement, with which it maintains organisational links. For most of the history of the state, it was the third largest party, though it is currently in fifth position in parliamentary strength.
It has been in government in the periods 1948–1951, 1954–1957, 1973–1977, 1981–1982, 1982–1987, 1993–1994, 1994–1997, and 2011–2016. On each of those occasions, it was in coalition with Fine Gael, with the exception of the period 1993 to 1994, when it was in coalition with Fianna Fáil. 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 Alan Kelly.
The Labour Party has 6 TDs, 5 Senators and 57 councillors.
Solidarity–People Before Profit
Solidarity–People Before Profit is an electoral alliance between People Before Profit, Solidarity and RISE. In October 2015, they formed a new alliance for electoral purposes, but continue to organise separately. The founding TDs have stated their aim to build a mass party of the left and ultimately help form a left-wing government.
Together they have 5 TDs (three from PBP, one from Solidarity and one from RISE) and 11 councillors.
Aontú is an all-Ireland republican party with a left-wing economic stance and a conservative social position. It was founded in 2019 by Peadar Tóibín who left Sinn Féin because of its support for the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018.
It has 1 TD and 3 councillors in the Republic of Ireland, and 2 councillors in Northern Ireland.
Right To Change
Independents 4 Change
They have 2 MEPs and 3 councillors.
Human Dignity Alliance
HDA has one senator.
Workers and Unemployed Action
Workers and Unemployed Action (WUA) is a left-wing political organisation formed in 1985 by Séamus Healy. At the time of the 2011 election the WUA formed part of the United Left Alliance, but left in 2012.
WUA has one councillor.
The Workers' Party is a Marxist–Leninist party allied with the international workers and communist parties. It is organised in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. A special Ardfheis in 1992 designed to re-constitute the party and remove links with the Official IRA 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 on Cork City Council.
Republican Sinn Féin
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. They have one councillor, Tomás Ó Curraoin on Galway County Council. As they are not a registered party, he is officially an independent councillor.
Kerry Independent Alliance
The Kerry Independent Alliance (previously the South Kerry Independent Alliance) have one councillor on Kerry County Council. It is registered to contest elections for Dáil Éireann and in Killarney for local elections.
The Socialist Party (known as Militant Labour until 1996) was formed in 1989 by members of the Militant Tendency who were expelled from the Labour Party. Joe Higgins was its first member elected at national level. It was part of the United Left Alliance in the 2011 general election, but that alliance disintegrated over the course of the following Dáil term. It now contests elections as part of the Solidarity–People Before Profit party.
Socialist Workers Network
The Socialist Workers Network was founded in 1971 as the Socialist Workers Movement. Later known as the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the party was set up by supporters of the International Socialists of Britain living in Ireland. SWP member Richard Boyd Barrett was elected to the Dáil Éireann, on behalf of People Before Profit, in the 2011 Irish general election.
Renua was founded in March 2015 with Lucinda Creighton as its founding leader. The founding parliamentary party deputies all left Fine Gael over their opposition to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013. Renua no longer has any TDs, having lost all three at the 2016 general election. It had one councillor elected at the 2019 local elections, but he resigned from the party shortly after.
Communist Party of Ireland
The Communist Party of Ireland was first founded in 1921, and re-founded in 1933. The party's only national representative was Patrick Gaffney, who contested the 1922 Irish general election as a Labour candidate, but later switched party allegiances. While it remains a registered party, it rarely stands candidates in elections.
Other registered parties
- Direct Democracy Ireland – founded in 2012, seeks to replace parliamentary democracy with direct democracy
- Éirígí (registered as "Éirígí For A New Republic") – socialist republican party founded in 2006
- Fís Nua – split from the Green Party in 2010 over its coalition with Fianna Fáil
- Housing Rights and Reform Alliance (HRRA) – founded in 2018 by Diarmaid Ó Cadhla, who was coopted in 2016 onto Cork County Council. Ó Cadhla was among four unsuccessful HRRA candidates at the 2019 Cork City Council election.
- Identity Ireland – founded in 2015, a Eurosceptic sovereigntist party aligned with Pegida
- Irish Freedom Party – a hard Eurosceptic party founded in 2018
- National Party – nationalist, anti-abortion, Eurosceptic and anti-immigration party founded in 2016
- United People – split from Direct Democracy Ireland in 2015
- Party for Animal Welfare
Other unregistered parties
- Christian Solidarity Party
- Irish Democratic Party
- Irish Republican Socialist Party
- Irish Socialist Network
- More literally – Warriors of Fál, Fál being an 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 initially commonly referred to as Provisional Sinn Féin.
- A second English translation is Tribe of the Irish.
- 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.
- Eoin Ó Murchú (19 November 2015). "Lucht na heite clé radacaí chun tosaigh ar Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre den chéad uair…". Tuairisc.ie (in Irish). Retrieved 19 October 2017.
- 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.
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