|Leader||Enda Kenny, TD|
|Founder||W. T. Cosgrave,
|Deputy leader||James Reilly, TD|
|Founded||8 September 1933|
|Merger of||Cumann na nGaedheal,
National Centre Party,
|Headquarters||51 Upper Mount Street,
Dublin 2, Ireland
|Youth wing||Young Fine Gael|
|European affiliation||European People's Party|
|International affiliation||Centrist Democrat International|
|European Parliament group||European People's Party|
67 / 166
18 / 60
4 / 11
234 / 949
|Politics of the Republic of Ireland
Fine Gael / / (meaning Family or Tribe of the Irish) is a liberal-conservative and Christian democratic political party in the Republic of Ireland. Fine Gael is the largest party in Ireland in the Oireachtas, in local government, and in terms of Members of the European Parliament. The party has a membership of over 35,000, and is the senior partner governing in a coalition with the Labour Party, with the Fine Gael party leader Enda Kenny serving as Taoiseach. Kenny has led the party since 2002.
Fine Gael was founded on 8 September 1933 following the merger of its parent party Cumann na nGaedheal, the National Centre Party and the National Guard (popularly known as the "Blueshirts", a name still used colloquially to refer to the party). Its origins lie in the struggle for Irish independence and the pro-Treaty side in the Irish Civil War and Michael Collins, in particular, is often identified as the founder of the movement.
Fine Gael is sometimes considered to be more on the political right than its main rival, Fianna Fáil. But Fine Gael has rarely governed Ireland without the Labour Party, a social-democratic party on the centre-left of Irish politics, apart from brief minority governments, as in 1987. Fine Gael describes itself as a "party of the progressive centre" conforming strongly to the ideals of Christian democracy and compassionate centrism, and is often seen as being moderate on social issues but conservative as regards economics. The party lists its core values as equality of opportunity, fiscal rectitude, free enterprise and reward, individual rights and responsibilities. It is strongly in favour of the European Union and opposed to physical force Irish republicanism. The party's youth wing, Young Fine Gael, was formed in 1977, and has approximately four thousand members. Fine Gael is a founding member of the European People's Party and a member of the Centrist Democrat International.
- 1 History
- 2 Ideology and policies
- 3 European affiliations
- 4 Electoral performance
- 5 Planning and Payment Tribunals
- 6 Leadership
- 7 General election results
- 8 Front bench
- 9 Young Fine Gael
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes and references
- 12 Bibliography
- 13 External links
Ideology and policies
Law and order party
Although Ireland's political spectrum was traditionally divided along Civil War lines, rather than the traditional European left–right spectrum, Fine Gael is described generally as a centre-right, Christian democratic party, with a focus on law and order, enterprise and reward, and fiscal rectitude. As the descendant of the pro-Treaty factions in the Irish Civil War, Fine Gael has a strong affinity with Michael Collins and his legacy. He remains a symbol for the party, and the anniversary of his death is commemorated each year in August.
Fine Gael has, since its inception, portrayed itself as a party of fiscal rectitude and minimal government interference in economics, advocating pro-enterprise policies. In that they followed the line of the previous pro-Treaty government that believed in minimal state intervention, low taxes and social expenditures. Newly elected politicians for the party in the Dáil have strongly advocated liberal economic policies. Lucinda Creighton and Leo Varadkar in particular have been seen as strong advocates of a neoliberal approach to Ireland's economics woes and Ireland's unemployment problems. Varadkar in particular has been a strong proponent of small, indigenous business, advocating that smaller firms should benefit from the government's recapitalisation program Its former finance spokesman Richard Bruton's proposals have been seen as approaching problems from a pro-enterprise point of view. Its fairer budget website suggests that its solutions are "tough but fair". Other solutions conform generally to conservative governments' policies throughout Europe, focusing on cutting numbers in the public sector, while maintaining investment in infrastructure.
Fine Gael's proposals have been criticised mostly by smaller political groupings in Ireland, and by some of the trade unions, who have raised the idea that the party's solutions are more conscious of business interests than the interests of the worker. The SIPTU trade union has stated its opposition to Enda Kenny's assertion that the national wage agreement should be suspended. Kenny's comments have support however and the party attributes its significant rise in polls in 2008 to this. In spite of this perceived opposition to Fine Gael from the left of the Irish political spectrum, the party, due to Dáil arithmetic, has never entered into national government without the backing of the Labour Party.
Fine Gael's Simon Coveney launched what the party termed a radical re-organisation of the Irish Semi-State Company sector. Styled the New Economy and Recovery Authority (or NewERA), Coveney said that it is an economic stimulus plan that will "reshape the Irish economy for the challenges of the 21st century". Requiring an €18.2 billion investment in Energy, Communications and Water infrastructure over a four-year period, it was promoted as a way to enhance energy security and digital reputation of Ireland. A very broad ranging document, it proposes the combined management of a portfolio of semi-state assets, and the sale of all other, non-essential services. The release of equity through the sale of the various state resources, including electricity generation services belonging to the ESB, Bord na Móna and Bord Gáis, in combination with use of money in the National Pensions Reserve Fund, is the means by which Fine Gael is proposing to fund its national stimulus package.
The plan is seen at being the basis of a Fine Gael program for government. Seen as being the longer term contribution to Fine Gael's economic plan, it has been publicised in combination with a more short term policy proposal from FG TD, Dr. Leo Varadkar. This document, termed "Hope for a Lost Generation", promises to bring 30,000 young Irish people off the Live Register in a year by combining a National Internship Program, a Second Chance Education Scheme, an Apprenticeship Guarantee and Community Work Program, as well as instituting a German style, Workshare program.
Commentary on the FG's economic proposals has generally been positive from some economic commentators including Eddie Hobbs and David McWilliams who have praised the proposals stating that they have considerable potential. Eamon Gilmore's Labour Party has launched policies which are seen to be broadly consistent with the FG platform.
Constitutional reform policies
Fine Gael is seen as being a constitutional party, with members and public representatives always showing considerable deference to the institutional organs of the Irish state. The party leadership has been eager to be seen to engage in an ongoing constitutional debate in Ireland on the topic of political reform. The debate which has been monitored by the Irish Times in its Renewing the Republic opinion pieces, has largely centred on the make up of the Oireachtas, the Irish parliament. FG's Phil Hogan TD, has published the party's answer to the political and constitutional reform question. In a policy document entitled New Politics, deputy Hogan has suggested creating a country with "a smaller, more dynamic and more responsive political system," reducing the size of the Dáil by 20, changing the way the Dáil works, and in a controversial move, abolishing the Irish senate, Seanad Éireann.
Aiming to carry out the parties proposals through a series of constitutional referendums, the proposals were echoed by Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, when he proposed his own constitutional crusade at his 2010 party conference, shortly after.
Fine Gael was traditionally conservative in social matters for most of the twentieth century, due to the conservative Christian ethos of Irish society during this time. Its members are variously influenced by Christian democracy, liberalism and social democracy on issues of social policy. Under Garret FitzGerald, the party's more liberal or pluralist wing gained prominence. Proposals to allow divorce were put by referendum by two Fine Gael–led governments, in 1986 under FitzGerald, and in 1995 under John Bruton, passing very narrowly on this second attempt.
Fine Gael supported civil unions for same-sex couples from 2003, voting for the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Bill 2010, and the party approved a motion at its 2012 Ard Fheis to prioritise the consideration of same-sex marriage in the upcoming constitutional convention. In 2013 party leader and Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced his support for same-sex marriage. The Fine Gael led government held a referendum on the subject on 22 May 2015. The referendum passed. The electorate voted to extend full marriage rights to same sex couples, with 62.1% in favour and 37.9% opposed. The party has run advertisements in GCN (Gay Community News) advertising its commitments to same-sex couples.
The Irish health system, being administered centrally by the Health Service Executive, is seen to be poor by comparison to other countries in Europe, ranking outside expected levels at 25th according to the Euro Health Consumer Index 2006. Fine Gael wants Ireland to break with the system of private health insurance, public medical cards and what it calls the two tiers of the health system and has launched a campaign to see the system reformed. Speaking in favour of the campaign, Fine Gael health spokesman James Reilly stated "Over the last 10 years the health service has become a shambles. We regularly have over 350 people on trolleys in A&E, waiting lists that go on for months, outpatient waiting lists that go on for years and cancelled operations across the country..."
Fine Gael launched its FairCare campaign and website in April 2009, which states that the health service would be reformed away from a costly ineffective endeavour, into a publicly regulated system where compulsory universal health insurance would replace the existing provisions.
This strategy was criticised by Fianna Fáil Minister for Children, Barry Andrews. The spokesperson for family law and children, Alan Shatter TD, robustly defended its proposals as the only means of reducing public expenditure, and providing a service in Ireland more akin to the Canadian, Dutch and German health systems.
As a Christian Democratic party, Fine Gael has historically been anti-abortion. It has however frequently disagreed with various "pro-life" organisations in Ireland. In 1983, having initially supported the proposal, it came out in opposition to the so-called "Pro-Life Amendment" to the Irish Constitution that was being submitted in a referendum in 1983. Under then leader and Taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald it campaigned for a 'No' vote, arguing, on the advice of the Attorney General of Ireland Peter Sutherland, that the wording, which had been drafted under the previous government, when analysed was ambiguous and open to many interpretations. This referendum resulted in the Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution, giving the unborn child a qualified equal right to life to that of the mother. Its stance conflicted with that of the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign (PLAC) and the Roman Catholic bishops, and Fianna Fáil, the largest party in the State at the time, but then in opposition.
The party also campaigned against the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution in 2002, which proposed to remove suicide as a grounds for granting a termination of a pregnancy. Suicide had been ruled as a ground, under the 8th amendment, in the X Case judgement of the Irish Supreme Court. The amendment was rejected by Irish voters.
In 2013 it proposed, and supported, the enactment of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, 2013, which implemented in statute law the X case ruling of the Irish Supreme Court, granting access to a termination of a pregnancy where there is a real and substantial risk to the life, not the health, of the mother, including a threat of suicide. The enactment of the Act was criticised by various "pro-life" groups and the Roman Catholic bishops, but supported by a majority of the electorate in polls, with many indicating they wished to see a more liberal law on abortion.
Fine Gael is among the most pro-European integration parties in the Republic of Ireland, having supported the European Constitution, the Lisbon Treaty, and advocating participation in European common defence. Under Enda Kenny, the party has questioned Irish neutrality, with Kenny claiming that "the truth is, Ireland is not neutral. We are merely unaligned."
Fine Gael is a founding member of the European People's Party (EPP), the largest European political party comprising conservative and Christian democratic national-level parties from across Europe. Fine Gael's MEPs sit with the EPP Group in the European Parliament, and FG parliamentarians also sit with the EPP Groups in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Committee of the Regions. Young Fine Gael is a member of the Youth of the European People's Party (YEPP).
It is inferred from Fine Gael's relationship to European counterparts via membership of the European People's Party that FG belongs on the centre-right. The party conforms generally with European political parties that identify themselves as being Christian democratic. Some younger parliamentarians are identified with the centre-right. The Irish Times supplement described front bench member Leo Varadkar TD as having explicitly centre-right views.
At the 2011 general election, Fine Gael gained 25 seats bringing them to a total of 76. The party ran candidates in all 43 constituencies, and had candidates elected in every constituency except Dublin North–West.
Fine Gael won 19 seats in Seanad Éireann following the 2011 election, a gain of four from the previous election in 2007.
At the 2009 Local elections held on 5 June 2009, Fine Gael won 556 seats, surpassing Fianna Fáil which won 407 seats, and making Fine Gael the largest party of local government nationally. They gained 88 seats from their 2004 result.
At 2009 European Parliament election held on the same day as the Local elections, which saw a reduction in the number seats from 13 to 12 for Ireland, the party won four seats, retaining the largest number of seats of an Irish party in the European Parliament. This was a loss of one seat from its 2004 result.
While Fine Gael was responsible for the initial nomination of the uncontested, first President of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, a Fine Gael candidate has never won an election to the office of President. The most recent Fine Gael presidential candidate, Gay Mitchell, finished fourth in the 2011 presidential election, with 6.4% of the vote. In 2004, Fine Gael supported the re-election of President Mary McAleese.
Planning and Payment Tribunals
The Moriarty Tribunal has sat since 1997 and has investigated the granting of a mobile phone license to Esat Telecom by Michael Lowry when he was Fine Gael Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications in the Rainbow Coalition of the mid-1990s. Lowry resigned from the Cabinet after it was revealed at the Moriarty Tribunal that businessman Ben Dunne had paid for an IR£395,000 extension to Lowry's Tipperary home. Lowry, now an independent TD, supported the Fianna Fáil–Green Party government in Dáil Éireann until March 2011.
It was also revealed in December 1996 that Fine Gael had received some £180,000 from Ben Dunne in the period 1987 to 1993. This was composed of £100,000 in 1993, £50,000 in 1992 and £30,000 in 1989. In addition, Michael Noonan received £3,000 in 1992 towards his election campaign, Ivan Yates received £5,000, Michael Lowry received £5,000 and Sean Barrett received £1,000 in the earlier 1987 election. John Bruton said he had received £1,000 from Dunne in 1982 towards his election campaign, and Dunne had also given £15,000 to the Labour Party during the 1990 Presidential election campaign.
Following revelations at the Moriarty Tribunal on 16 February 1999, in relation to Charles Haughey and his relationship with AIB, former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald confirmed that AIB and Ansbacher wrote off debts of almost £200,000 that he owed in 1993, when he was in financial difficulties because of the collapse of the aircraft leasing company, GPA, in which he was a shareholder. The write-off occurred after Dr Fitzgerald left politics and Dr. Fitzgerald also said he believed his then Fine Gael colleague, Peter Sutherland, who was chairman of AIB at the time, was unaware of the situation.
Mayo TD Enda Kenny was elected leader of Fine Gael in a secret ballot of the parliamentary party on 5 June 2002. Kenny defeated Richard Bruton, Phil Hogan and Gay Mitchell in the leadership election, which was triggered by the resignation of Michael Noonan following the 2002 general election. The position of deputy leader has been held since July 2010 by James Reilly. It was previously held by Dublin North–Central TD Richard Bruton from 2002 until 2010. He was preceded as deputy leader by Jim Mitchell.
The following are the terms of office as party leader and as Taoiseach (bolded) if applicable:
|Part of a series on|
|Leader||Period||Constituency||Periods in office (if Taoiseach)|
|W. T. Cosgrave||1934–44||Carlow–Kilkenny|
|Richard Mulcahy||1944–59||Tipperary||John A. Costello – 1948–1951; 1954–1957
(Government of the 13th Dáil and 15th Dáil)
|Liam Cosgrave||1965–77||Dún Laoghaire||1973–1977
(Government of the 20th Dáil)
|Garret FitzGerald||1977–87||Dublin South–East||1981–Feb 1982; Nov 1982–1987
(Government of the 22nd Dáil and 24th Dáil)
|Alan Dukes||1987–90||Kildare South|
(Government of the 27th Dáil)
|Michael Noonan||2001–02||Limerick East|
(Government of the 31st Dáil)
|Tom O'Higgins||1972–77||Dublin County South|
|Peter Barry||1977–87||Cork South–Central|
|Peter Barry||1991–93||Cork South–Central|
|Nora Owen||1993–2001||Dublin North|
|Jim Mitchell||2001–02||Dublin Central|
|Richard Bruton||2002–10||Dublin North–Central|
|James Reilly||2010–present||Dublin North|
|Michael J. O'Higgins||1973–77||Nominated member of Seanad Éireann|
|Patrick Cooney||1977–81||Cultural and Educational Panel|
|Gemma Hussey||1981–82||National University of Ireland|
|James Dooge||1982–87||National University of Ireland|
|Maurice Manning||1987–2002||Cultural and Educational Panel|
|Brian Hayes||2002–07||Cultural and Educational Panel|
|Michael Finucane||2007 (acting)||Labour Panel|
|Frances Fitzgerald||2007–11||Labour Panel|
|Maurice Cummins||2011–present||Labour Panel|
General election results
|Election||Seats won||±||Position||First Pref votes||%||Government||Leader|
48 / 138
|11||2nd||461,171||34.8%||Opposition||W. T. Cosgrave|
45 / 138
|3||2nd||428,633||33.3%||Opposition||W. T. Cosgrave|
32 / 138
|12||2nd||307,490||23.1%||Opposition||W. T. Cosgrave|
30 / 138
31 / 147
|1||2nd||262,393||19.8%||Coalition (FG-LP-CnP-CnT-NLP)||Richard Mulcahy|
40 / 147
50 / 147
|10||2nd||427,031||32.0%||Coalition (FG-LP-CnT)||Richard Mulcahy|
40 / 147
47 / 144
47 / 144
50 / 144
54 / 144
|4||2nd||473,781||35.1%||Coalition (FG-LP)||Liam Cosgrave|
43 / 148
65 / 166
|22||2nd||626,376||36.5%||Coalition (FG-LP)||Garret FitzGerald|
63 / 166
70 / 166
|7||2nd||662,284||39.2%||Coalition (FG-LP)||Garret FitzGerald|
51 / 166
55 / 166
45 / 166
54 / 166
31 / 166
51 / 166
76 / 166
|25||1st||801,628||36.1%||Coalition (FG-LP)||Enda Kenny|
Young Fine Gael
Young Fine Gael (YFG) is the youth movement of Fine Gael. It was founded in 1976 by the then leader Garret FitzGerald. It caters for young people under 30 with an interest in Fine Gael and politics, in cities, towns, parishes and third level colleges throughout Ireland. YFG has 4,000 members nationwide. YFG is led by its national executive consisting of ten members elected on a regional basis, and on a national panel.
Notes and references
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- O'Duffy did not hold a seat in the Oireachtas while he was party leader.
- While Mulcahy was a member of the Seanad in 1944, Tom O'Higgins acted as parliamentary party leader.
- Between 1948 and 1959, John A. Costello served as parliamentary leader.
- While Mulcahy was party leader, Costello was Taoiseach on two occasions.
- The total number of Fine Gael TDs is compared to the combined total won by Cumann na nGaedheal and the National Centre Party at the previous general election.
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- Nealon's Guide to the 29th Dáil and Seanad (Gill and Macmillan, 2002) (ISBN 0-7171-3288-9)
- Stephen Collins, "The Cosgrave Legacy" (Blackwater, 1996) (ISBN 0-86121-658-X)
- Garret FitzGerald, "Garret FitzGerald: An Autobiography" (Gill and Macmillan, 1991) (ISBN 0-7171-1600-X)
- Jack Jones, In Your Opinion: Political and Social Trends in Ireland through the Eyes of the Electorate (Townhouse, 2001) (ISBN 1-86059-149-3)
- Maurice Manning, James Dillon: A Biography (Wolfhound, 1999/2000) (ISBN 0-86327-823-X)
- Stephen O'Byrnes, Hiding Behind a Face: Fine Gael under FitzGerald (Gill and Macmillan: 1986) (ISBN 0-7171-1448-1)
- Raymond Smith, Garret: The Enigma (Aherlow, 1985) (no ISBN)
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