EXISTING PARTIESFine Gael (1934 - )
Currently the largest party in government, Fine Gael was formed from a merger of Cumann na nGaedheal, the Centre Party and the National Guard. Often described as centrist or centre-right, the party was the perennial second largest in the Dáil until 2011. Currently led by Enda Kenny.
Labour Party (1912 -)
Formed in 1912, the Labour Party started contesting elections in 1922. Traditionally the third largest party in the Dáil, it became the second largest after the 2011 general election. As is presently the case, the Labour Party has often been in government in coalition with Fine Gael, with the exception of 1992 - 1994 when it partnered with Fianna Fáil. It has switched to various levels of left-wing identity in its life before settling on social democracy. Currently led by Eamon Gilmore.
Fianna Fáil (1926 - )
Formed by Éamon de Valera when he and his followers opted to take their seats in Dáil Éireann, Fianna Fáil quickly established itself as the party of government. Held office for a record 16 years from 1932 to 1948 and was in power for much of the state's history. Fianna Fáil was the largest party in the Dáil from 1932 to 2011, when it suffered a huge defeat at the polls. It is now the third largest party and the party of the main Opposition. Generally considered a centrist populist party, despite being founded as the party of the poor rural class. Currently led by Micheál Martin.
Sinn Féin (1905/1970- )
The original Sinn Féin party was founded in 1905 as a nationalist republican party seeking Irish independence from Britain. It grew to be the largest party in Ireland by 1918, though the circumstances of Irish independence in the years 1920 - 1922 resulted in a number of splits within the party. Further splits occurred throughout the years, with the current Sinn Féin party (formerly known as Provisional Sinn Féin) claiming roots in the 1970 split that saw them breaking away from what became the Workers' Party. Formerly abstentionist, Sinn Féin is a left-wing party seeking the unification of the two states of Ireland. Currently led by Gerry Adams.
Green Party (1981 - )
Founded as an ecology party, the Greens enjoyed limited electoral success until the 2000s. They entered government with Fianna Fáil in 2007 but lost all of their seats in the following general election. The party also runs in Northern Ireland, securing its first Assembly seat in 2011. The Green Party mostly campaigns on environmental issues, and is generally seen as a liberal party. Currently led by Eamon Ryan.
United Left Alliance (2011 - )
The ULA is an electoral alliance consisting of three left-wing parties: the Socialist Party, the People Before Profit Alliance and the Workers and Unemployed Action Group, as well as a number of independents.
Socialist Party (1996 - )
The Socialist Party's origins lie in the far left Militant Tendency faction of Labour, which was expelled in 1989. Formally established in 1996, the party is mainly active in Dublin. It forms part of the left-wing opposition in Dáil Éireann. The party has a collective leadership.
Socialist Workers' Party (1971 - ) / People Before Profit Alliance (2005 - )
The Socialist Workers' Party began as a far left group in 1971. It did not begin to contest elections until 1997, and in 2005 it established the People Before Profit Alliance under which banner its candidates run for election. The party has a collective leadership.
The Workers' Party (1970 - )
Began as a Marxist breakaway faction of Sinn Féin. The Workers' Party enjoyed a certain amount of popularity in the late 1980s before many of its elected members left to form Democratic Left in 1992. The party still contests elections but has never returned to its peak levels. Currently led by Mick Finnegan.
Clann na Poblachta (1946 - 1965)
Established by Seán MacBride as a new left-wing nationalist party. It enjoyed quick popularity and was a member of the first Inter-Party government of 1948-1951. Its fortunes fell after this time until its support had virtually collapsed. It was dissolved in 1965.
A leftist political party founded by Limerick East TD Jim Kemmy. It brought down the 1981-2 Fine Gael-Labour coalition government when Kemmy voted against the government's Budget. The DSP merged with Labour in 1990.
A short-lived left wing party established by Dr. Noel Browne in 1981. Its poor performance in the general election of that year resulted in its unwinding after just twelve months,
Progressive Democrats (1985 - 2009)
The Progressive Democrats were a Fianna Fáil breakaway group which sought to become a liberal party for an increasingly liberal Ireland. The party was in government from 1989 to 1992 and again from 1997 to 2009 - ironically with Fianna Fáil each time. The party's support suffered a drastic decline in 2007, and the party officially dissolved itself two years later.
Democratic Left (1992 - 1999)
See The Workers' Party