Dokumentation af Irlands historie
Af Paul-Frederik Bach
Hjemmeside    English section

Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Progressive Democrats
The Green Party
Sinn Féin

Fianna Fáil

Fianna Fáil (Soldiers of Destiny) is the largest political party in the State. Fianna Fáil was founded in 1926 by Eamon de Valera (he was born in the United States; his mother was Irish and his father Spanish). De Valera was among those in the Sinn Féin movement who opposed the Treaty, signed with the British in 1921, which established the Irish State.

Following the Civil War which resulted from this dispute, De Valera and others split with their former comrades in Sinn Fein and the IRA over the issue of taking seats in the Dublin parliament.

The party was a great success and held power between 1932 and 1948, 1951 to 1954 and 1957 to 1973. It became a significant presence in all walks of Irish life. De Valera, a devout Catholic, ensured that Fianna Fáil had close links with the Catholic Church and rarely opposed its interests. From the 1930s until the late 1980s it was the only party capable of winning an overall majority.

In December, 1979, Charles Haughey beat George Colley in a contest for leadership of the party, replacing Jack Lynch. He took over as head of the Fianna Fáil government that had been formed in 1977 and lasted until 1981. He was Taoiseach from March to December 1982 and 1987 to 1989. The latter was a minority government.

Following a general election in June, 1989, Fianna Fáil entered coalition with the Progressive Democrats. Earlier controversies in his career and his refusal to outline the source of his considerable wealth, made Haughey a controversial figure.

A scandal involving the tapping of journalists' telephones led to his fall in early 1992 and his replacement by Albert Reynolds, a businessman from County Longford. An election in late 1992 led to the formation of another Fianna Fáil coalition government, this time with the Labour Party. That government collapsed in late 1994.

Bertie Ahern took over as party leader following the coalition government's collapse. A former accountant from Dublin, he is married and separated, and has two children.

The party failed to win an overall majority in the last election and went into coalition once more with the Progressive Democrats and independents. The Fianna Fáil/PD/independents coalition has been in power since 1997 and is the longest serving peace-time government in the history of the State.

The latest polls suggest that the party is likely to lead a coalition government again after this election, although the support of the independents could still be required if the existing Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat Government is to be returned.

Bookmakers have stopped taking bets on Mr. Ahern being the next Taoiseach. The question now seems to be whether the Party can win an overall majority without the need for support from the PD's or independents to form the next government.

Fine Gael     Top

Fine Gael (Tribes of Irishmen) is the second-largest political party in the State. It has been the main opposition party since it lost power in the 1997 general election.

In the European Parliament Fine Gael is part of the European People's Party group along with the German Christian Democrats.

Fine Gael was formed in September 1933 by a merger of Cumainn na nGaedheal, (the Society of Irishmen) the Centre Party and the Blueshirts.

Cumainn na nGaedheal was formed in March 1923 from the pro-Treaty element of Sinn Féin. The party members had formed the first government after the State was established in 1922, following the signing of the Treaty with Britain.

The Centre Party was a small party formed in 1932.

The Blueshirts was a quasi-fascist organisation formed in 1932 and composed initially of former soldiers.

Fine Gael in government in the 1930s took a conservative approach to the economy despite widespread poverty and unemployment. However the party set up an unarmed police force, the Gardai Siochana, and established a civil service which was generally free of corruption.

The party was in power in from 1948 to 1951, 1954 to 1957, 1973 to 1977, 1982 to 1983, 1983 to 1987, and 1994 to 1997 always as the main party in coalition governments.

Dr Garret FitzGerald took over as party leader in July 1977. FitzGerald brought a social democratic strain into his party's politics and launched a constitutional crusade to create a more pluralist Republic.

Alan Dukes took over as leader from FitzGerald in March 1987. He was replaced by John Bruton, the owner of a large farm in Co Meath, in November 1990.

Bruton led the party in Government from 1994 to 1997 in the rainbow coalition with Labour and the Democratic Left.

Many supporters of the peace process in Ireland blamed Bruton for allowing the British Government to introduce the so-called "Washington Three", a set of pre-conditions restricting Sinn Fein's participation in government. The pre-conditions almost brought down the Good FRiday Agreement.

Bruton resigned as party leader early last year after losing a no-confidence motion and Michael Noonan took over as leader of Fine Gael.

Since Noonan became leader, the party has struggled to capture the public's imagination and recent polls have the Party at just 21 per cent of the first preference votes.

Despite the failure to the increase the party's support - at least according to the polls - Michael Noonan, has predicted that the outcome of the general election will still be "a cliffhanger".

However, Irish bookmakers are offering even-money that the Party will take 41 seats or less. Considering 84 seats are required for an overall majority, this represents a major crisis point for Fine Gael.

If the Party polls as poorly as predicted, we can anticipate Mr. Noonan's resignation and a leadership battle in June. If this transpires, many observers expect Alan Dukes to throw his hat in the ring, bidding to lead the Party for a second time.

Labour     Top

The Labour Party is the third-largest political party in the State and has strong links with the trade union movement.

In the European Parliament it is a member of the Socialist Group which includes the British Labour Party and the French Socialists. It is very much a center left rather than a hard left party.

Labour was set up by the Irish Trade Union Congress in 1912. It was part of coalition governments which ruled in 1948 to 1951, 1954 to 1957, 1973 to 1977, 1982 to 1983, 1983 to 1987, all of which were led by Fine Gael.

In 1992, the mould was dramatically broken when Labour went into coalition with Fianna Fail for the first time.

The government, under the leadership of Albert Reynolds, was a success, overseeing successful negotiations with the European Commission, an IRA ceasefire, and improvements in the economy.

However the Labour ratings in the polls, which had been indicating it might grow to being the second-largest party in the state, began to drop. Having scored 22 per cent support in November 1994, support for the party steadily declined.

An unhappy relationship between Spring and Fianna Fáil leader Mr. Reynolds led to the collapse of the government in late 1994 in a controversy over the appointment of a judge.

Labour opened negotiations with Fine Gael and Democratic Left and formed a new coalition without going to the polls, the first time such an event had occurred in Irish politics.

In January 1999, following a fall off in support for both parties, Labour merged with Democratic Left, a small left-wing party formed in the early 1990s by figures who broke away from the more hardline Workers Party. The merger came about in an attempt to establish a strong left wing identity.

Ruairí Quinn, who was elected leader of Labour in 1997 became leader of the new party when it was formed, with the former leader of Democratic Left Prionsias De Rossa becoming party president. He is also a member of the European Parliament.

In the most recent polls, Labour's national support stands at around 12 per cent. Bookmakers are offering odds which suggest that Labour will win in the region of 22-23 seats in the Election.

Progressive Democrats     Top

The Progressive Democrats has been the smaller party in the current coalition Government since 1997.

With their four TDs, they held the balance of power by propping up Fianna Fáil with the assistance of a number of Independent deputies.

The party was formed in 1985 by Mr Des O'Malley following a rancorous split within Fianna Fáil. It describes itself as a modern liberal party in the European mode and has broadly right-of-center business-orientated economic policies.

The leader of the Progressive Democrats, Ms Mary Harney, is currently serving as Tánaiste and Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment.

However, the party has suffered a number of serious blows in recent months. Firstly Mr O'Malley announced his retirement from politics, which will leave a large gap in the party's influence in Limerick, where he had held a seat, first for Fianna Fáil and then the PDs, for over 20 years.

The most damaging blow to the PDs was the resignation this month of the junior Minister for the Environment, Mr Bobby Molloy, following a scandal over his part in submissions being made to a judge presiding over a rape case on behalf of the sister of the accused.

The most recent MRBI poll taken on Tuesday of this week showed the party with a support base of just 2 per cent.

The party's main hope of winning a seat rests with former Irish Farmers' Association president, Mr Tom Parlon, who is running as a PD candidate for Laois/Offaly.

Ms Liz O'Donnell, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs should hold on to her seat despite running in the notoriously treacherous Dublin South constituency.

Another high profile PD Attorney General Mr Michael McDowell may face a stiffer task regaining a seat in Dublin South-East where he narrowly lost out to the Green Party's Mr John Gormley at the last election.

Ms Harney, who began her political career with Fianna Fáil 25 years ago when only 24 years of age, became leader of the PDs in 1993 following a close and at times controversial leadership battle with Mr Pat Cox. Mr Cox subsequently left the party and is now an independent MEP and leader of the European Parliament.

Bookmakers are currently offering odds which suggest that the PD's most likely will win just two seats in tomorrow's election.

The Green Party     Top

The Green Party has joined the more conventional party structures by electing a party leader earlier this year and hopes to add to its two members in Leinster House.

The party was formed in 1982 and originally was called the Ecology Party of Ireland. It changed its name in 1986 to the Green Party.

The party has as a basic principle that the impact of society on the environment should not be disruptive and that conservation of resources is vital to a sustainable society.

It argues that all political, economic and social decisions should be taken at the lowest level possible. It further argues that the poverty of two-thirds of the world's population calls for a redistribution of resources.

Another of the party's principles is that the need for world peace overrides national and commercial interests.

The party receives most of its funding from its three main representatives, who donate one-fifth of their salaries. In 1995 it received its largest individual donation when the US group REM, during a visit to Ireland for a performance, joined the party and donated IR£1,500.

The Green Party caused great upset when it won seats in Dublin and Leinster in the 1994 European elections. In 1997 John Gormley joined party leader Trevor Sargent in the Dáil when he was elected for Dublin South East, having endured a marathon week-long count to defeat Michael McDowell of the PDs by twenty seven votes.

The party elected Trevor Sargent as its first leader last year. Recent polls have indicated that his leader-satisfaction rating stands at just 35 per cent, although over 50 per cent of those polled said they had no opinion when questioned.

The party has retained the support of three per cent of the electorate, according to the most recent MRBI poll but Gormley faces another difficult contest with McDowell over his Dublin South East seat.

However, a February poll in the Cork South Central constituency suggested that the Green Party's Mr Dan Boyle could take the Fine Gael seat of Ms Deirdre Clune.

Current bookmakers odds suggest that three seats is the most likely outcome for the Greens on Friday.

Sinn Féin     Top

Sinn Féin (We Ourselves) is a staunchly republican left-wing party and is the only party organized throughout the entire 32 counties.

The original Sinn Féin was formed by Arthur Griffith in the early 1900s and was used as an umbrella name for nationalists who sought total separation from Britain, as distinct from moderates in favor of a Home Rule system.

The current Sinn Féin party evolved from a split in the republican movement in Ireland in the early 1970s.

Throughout that decade, the party was marginalised in political terms. Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act banned Sinn Fein from the public airways for over 20 years.

It was not until the electoral success of Bobby Sands while on hunger strike in 1981 that Sinn Féin's party leadership realized the potential of the latent republican vote in Ireland.

Gerry Adams has been party leader since 1983, when he was also elected MP for West Belfast, a seat in Westminster which he refused to occupy because of the compulsory oath of allegiance to the British Queen.

The most recent MRBI poll has predicted that the party could gain a number of seats in the upcoming election, with a level of eight per cent support for the party, representing a three per cent increase. The poll also revealed a 56 per cent satisfaction rating for Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

Sinn Fein's current sole TD, Caoimhin O Caolin, is expected to be returned comfortably in the Cavan/Monaghan constituenccy.

The Kerryman newspaper, in its most recent analysis, has predicted that Martin Ferris will be returned on the first count in North Kerry and is expected to top the poll.

This constituency is Fianna Fáil's worst electoral nightmare, capable of not electing any deputy for the party.

Dick Spring, who is conducting a high-profile campaign to retain his seat, and Jimmy Deenihan, a close associate of FG leader Michael Noonan, seem set to battle out for 2nd and 3rd spots at the poll.

They will be challenged by the FF candidates, Tom McEllistrim and Senator Dan Kiely. Denis Foley, who resigned from the FF parliamentary party after it was revealed that he had 'irregular' offshore bank accounts, is retiring from politics.

FF has been in decline in Kerry North for several years; at one time, it had over 50 per cent of the vote. However, the organisation is now bitterly divided.

Mr Ferris, who got more first preference votes than Mr Foley in the last general election, has since been elected to Kerry County Council and Tralee Urban Council. His organisation has also grown considerably. He is SF's strongest contender to become their second TD.

Sinn Fein's Sean Crowe will contest Dublin South West. The battle for a Sinn Féin seat in Dublin South West began anew in 1997, one day after the battle for a seat in the 28th Dáil was foiled when its candidate, Cllr Sean Crowe, was eliminated with one-third of a quota.

Since then the party has poured its resources into the constituency. Tomorrow, Cllr Crowe will do much better, though his hopes of election will depend on getting a reluctant electorate to the ballot box.

Aenghus O Snodaigh is Sinn Fein's candidate in Dublin South Central. Though not one of Sinn Féin's declared target seats, Ó Snodaigh, now living in Ballyfermot, hopes to improve on the 1,686 first preferences he won in 1999 though, as elsewhere, transfers will be his main problem.

Nevertheless, some private opinion polling by the major parties offered signals that Mr Ó Snodaigh is attracting a youth vote but one which is hugely difficult to get out on election day.

Nicky Keogh is Sinn Fein's Dublin North Central candidate. In the past, Sinn Féin's Dublin City Council Cllr Christy Burke took more than 2,000 first-preference votes. His successor, Cllr Keogh, will do better.

Undeniably popular in large tracts of Cabra, Cllr Keogh has worked hard over the past year to spread his base of support across the sprawling constituency.

Dessie Ellis contests Dublin North West for Sinn Fein. There will be considerable interest in the performance of Mr Ellis, who polled 2,278 first preferences in Finglas to secure a Dublin Corporation seat in 1999.

Arthur Morgan is Sinn Fein's Louth candidate. A poll last week indicated Morgan will get 15 per cent of the first preferences. Living in Omeath, just below the Border, Arthur Morgan, who has built up a considerable profile, is badly sited for transfers.

Nevertheless, Sinn Féin is quietly confident of pulling off a surprise.

Sean McManus is Sinn Fein's Sligo-Leitrim candidate. Though polling well, he will find it hard to challenge for a seat in this four-seater.

Joe Reilly is Sinn Fein's Meath candidate. Reilly has had a high profile in local politics for several years and, although he is expected to pick up a considerable number of second preferences due to his work on environmental issues, it would be remarkable if he were to make the quota.

Bookmakers' odds suggest that Sinn Fein will gain three seats. However, Sinn Fein fair poorly in opinion polls and will be confident of more seats if they can get out the youth vote.

Hjemmeside    English section
Opdateret d. 1.1.2009