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List of political parties in the Republic of Ireland facts for kids

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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 largest political parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, arose from a split in the original Sinn Féin party in the 1922–1923 Civil War, Fine Gael from the faction (Cumann na nGaedheal) 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 it has usually been the third party in parliamentary strength, though it is currently the fourth largest party in Dáil Éireann. In recent years, Sinn Féin has risen to prominence, surpassing the Labour Party in the 2016 general election.

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 elected representation at a local, national or European level

Party details

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
Fianna Fáil Micheál Martin "Soldiers of Destiny" 1926 Éamon de Valera Irish republicanism,
Liberal conservatism,
Centre-right Liberal International ALDE
Sinn Féin Gerry Adams "We Ourselves" 1905 / 1970 Arthur Griffith Irish republicanism,
Left-wing nationalism,
Democratic socialism
Left-wing none GUE/NGL
Labour Party Brendan Howlin Páirtí an Lucht Oibre 1912 James Connolly
James Larkin
William X. O'Brien
Social democracy,
Third Way
Centre-left Socialist International S&D
Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit none Chomhghuaillíocht in Aghaidh na Déine-Daoine Roimh Brabús 2015 none Democratic socialism,
Far-left (Factions): International Socialist Tendency and Committee For a Workers' International GUE/NGL
Green Party Eamon Ryan Comhaontas Glas 1981 none Green politics Centre-left Global Greens Greens/EFA
Social Democrats Catherine Murphy
Róisín Shortall
Na Daonlathaigh Shóisialta 2015 Stephen Donnelly
Catherine Murphy
Róisín Shortall
Social democracy Centre-left none none
Workers and Unemployed Action Séamus Healy 1985 Séamus Healy Left-wing none none
Renua Ireland John Leahy Dervived from "Ré Nua" meaning "New Era" 2015 Lucinda Creighton Conservatism Right-wing none none
Workers' Party Michael Donnelly Páirtí na nOibrithe 1970 Tomás Mac Giolla Communism,
Irish republicanism,
Far-left Communist and Workers' Parties none
Republican Sinn Féin Des Dalton Sinn Féin Poblachtach 1986 Ruairí Ó Brádaigh Irish republicanism,
Éire Nua,
Left-wing none none

Party representation

Party Representation (as of May 2016)
Oireachtas European Parliament Local councils
Dáil Éireann Seanad Éireann
Fine Gael 50 19 4 234
Fianna Fáil 44 14 0 262
Sinn Féin 23 7 3 156
Labour Party 7 5 0 50
Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit 6 0 0 28
Independent Alliance 5 0 0 15
Independents 4 Change 4 0 0 1
Green Party 2 1 0 12
Social Democrats 2 0 0 4
Workers and Unemployed Action 1 0 0 1
Renua Ireland 0 0 0 2
Workers' Party 0 0 0 2
Kerry Independent Alliance 0 0 0 1
Republican Sinn Féin 0 0 0 1

Parties and groupings represented in the Oireachtas

Fine Gael

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 espoused some values of social democracy. During the 1980s, Fine Gael leader Garret FitzGerald advocated a liberal agenda in many areas of social reform. A government of Fine Gael and the Labour Party proposed a successful referendum in support of marriage equality in 2015. 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 generally has the most favourable stance of Irish parties towards the European Union and other international organisation.

Fine Gael has 50 TDs, 13 Senators, 4 MEPs and 234 councillors.

Fianna Fáil

Fianna Fáil is the second 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 coalition 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.

Bertie Ahern was the Taoiseach from 1997 to 2008 and negotiated numerous social partnership contracts, the Good Friday 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, after resigning due to evidence from the Mahon Tribunal into payments and planning matters. 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. This lack of electoral success was short lived as the Republican Party swept to a resounding victory at the 2014 Local Elections before more than doubling their Dáil seats at the 2016 General Election.

In September 2007, Fianna Fáil announced that they would organise politically in the north, but have yet to contest elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Fianna Fáil has 44 TDs, 14 Senators, one MEP and 262 councillors.

Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin is the third-largest party in the Oireachtas 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 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 third largest in the Republic of Ireland with 23 seats in the Dáil in the 2016 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.

Sinn Féin has 23 TDs, 7 Senators, 3 MEPs and 156 councillors in the Republic of Ireland.

Labour Party

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 fourth position in parliamentary strength. It has been in government in the periods 1922–1932, 1948–1951, 1954–1957, 1973–1977, 1981–82, 1982–1987, 1993–1994, 1994–1997, and since 2011. 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 Brendan Howlin.

The Labour Party has 7 TDs, 5 Senators and 50 councillors.

Solidarity–People Before Profit

The People Before Profit Alliance (PBP) was formed in 2005, primarily by members of the Socialist Workers Party. The Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) was formed in 2014, primarily by members of the Socialist Party. In October 2015, they formed a new alliance for electoral purposes as the Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit, but continue to organise separately. Both parties have shared platforms on abolishing water charges and the property tax along with tackling homelessness and the housing crisis. The founding TDs have stated their aim to build a mass party of the left and ultimately help form a left-wing government. The AAA rebranded itself as Solidarity in March 2016.

Together they have 6 TDs (three from each of Solidarity and the PBP) and 28 councillors (14 from each of Solidarity and the PBP).

Independents 4 Change

Independents 4 Change has been registered as a political party since 2014. Its registered officer is Wexford TD Mick Wallace. The other deputies are Clare Daly, Joan Collins and Tommy Broughan. Three further TDs, Catherine Connolly, Thomas Pringle, and Maureen O'Sullivan, sit in the I4C Dáil group while not being members of the party: Catherine Connolly, Thomas Pringle, and Maureen O'Sullivan.

They have 4 TDs and 1 councillor.

Green Party

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 had continued representation there until 2011. The party advocates ecological 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 at the 2011 general election, lost all of their Dáil seats. They gained 2 seats at the 2016 general election.

The Green Party has 2 TDs, 1 Senator and 12 councillors.

Social Democrats

The Social Democrats were founded in July 2015 by three independent TDs Stephen Donnelly, Catherine Murphy, and Róisín Shortall, who will share leadership of the party until after the next general election. The Social Democrats describe themselves as being centre-left and in favour of Scandinavian style public services along with promoting indigenous small and medium-sized enterprise.

The Social Democrats have 2 TDs and 4 councillors.

Workers and Unemployed Action

Workers and Unemployed Action (WUA) 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 WUA formed part of the United Left Alliance, but left in 2012. WUA has one TD and one councillor.

Parties represented only on local authorities

Renua Ireland

Renua Ireland was founded in March 2015 with Lucinda Creighton as its founding leader. It broadly advocates conservative and right-wing politics including a flat tax and a three-strikes law at the 2016 general election. While the founding parliamentary party deputies all left Fine Gael over their opposition to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, the party itself has not taken a stance on abortion, claiming instead that they would support a free vote and looser party whip. It has no TDs, having lost all three at the 2016 general election.

Renua Ireland has 2 councillors.

Workers' Party

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 two councillors, Éilis Ryan on Dublin City Council and Ted Tynan 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. 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.

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.

Other parties

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 rarely stands candidates in elections, and remains quite small. It was historically quite influential in the trade union movement.

Socialist Party

The Socialist Party (initially known as Militant Labour) was formed in 1989 by members of the Militant Tendency who were expelled from the Labour Party. It was renamed the Socialist Party in 1996. It is a Marxist political party in the Trotskyist tradition and is organised in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Joe Higgins was its first member elected at national level. It was part of the United Left Alliance in the 2011 general election, along with the People Before Profit Alliance and the Workers and Unemployed Action Group, but that Alliance disintegrated over the course of the following Dáil term. Its councillors contested the 2014 local elections as part of the Anti-Austerity Alliance. In 2014, it altered its registered name to Stop the Water Tax – Socialist Party. It now contests elections as part of the Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit. Three TDs are members of the Socialist Party. The party is affiliated to the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI).

Socialist Workers Party

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. From 2007 to 2016, it contested elections as part of the People Before Profit Alliance (PBP). It is now contests elections as part of the Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit. Three TDs are members of the Socialist Workers Party.

Other registered parties

  • Direct Democracy Ireland
  • éirígí
  • Fís Nua
  • Irish Democratic Party
  • Identity Ireland
  • United People

Other unregistered parties

Just as independent candidates, those standing for unregistered parties may choose either to be listed as "Non-Party", or to leave the section blank on the ballot paper.

  • Irish Republican Socialist Party
  • Irish Socialist Network
  • National Party
  • Pirate Party Ireland
  • Saoradh
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