Fine Gael

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox Irish Political Party Fine Gael (IPA in English and in Irish, approximate English translation: Family of the Irish) is the second largest political party in both the Republic of Ireland and Ireland as a whole. It was founded on 3 September 1933 following the merger of Cumann na nGaedheal, the Centre Party and the Blueshirts (National Guard) though it traces its origins back to the struggle for Irish independence and the pro-Treaty side in Ireland's Civil War, identified in particular with Michael Collins. Fine Gael today describes itself as a party of the centre-right in the model of the mainland European christian democratic parties, committed to developing a wider more pluralistic sense of Irish nationalism. They are strongly pro-EU and opposed to militant Irish republicanism. It is the sole party in the Republic of Ireland to be aligned with the European People's Party in the European Parliament. Today, the party claims a membership of over 34,000.



The leader also serves as the President of the party

Core policies

Fine Gael, since the days of Cumann na nGheadheal, has been known as the party of law and order as a result of its tough stance on crime and the causes of crime. In Government the party has often utilised the forces of the State to combatt lawlessness and subversives. Owing to its origins in the pro-traty faction of Sinn Féin, Fine Gael is opposed to those who show disloyalty to the Irish State founded in 1922 and sees itself as the protector of the State's institutions. Fine Gael has, since its inception, supported free trade and pro-enterprise policies while integrity in public life is a core value. Fine Gael is, perhaps, the most pro-European party in the Republic of ireland.


In the face of intimidation of Cumann na nGaedheal meetings by the IRA and the rise in support for Fianna Fáil a new strategy was required to strenghten the voice of the pro-Treaty tradition who now found themselves in opposition. As a result Fine Gael was founded as an independent party in 1933, following the merger of the Cumann na nGaedheal, the Centre Party and the Blueshirts (National Guard). In reality, it was really a larger version of Cumann na nGaedhael, the party created in 1923 by the Pro-Treaty leaders of the Irish Free State under William T. Cosgrave. The new party sought to end the Economic war, improve relations with Britain while advocating a United Ireland within the framework of the Commonwealth. After a short hiatus under the disastrous leadership of General Eoin O'Duffy, Cosgrave returned to lead the new party, continuing in the leadership until 1944. Although the people who formed the party had been in government for ten years in the Irish Free State (1922-32), once Fianna Fáil under Eamon de Valera came to power in 1932, Fine Gael spent the next sixteen years in the doldrums, overshadowed by the larger party. Indeed at times, it went into what was thought to be terminal decline. However to its own surprise it found itself in government in 1948, when all the anti-Fianna Fáil parties between them won enough seats in that year's general election to oust Fianna Fáil and take power. However, some of the other parties in the new First Inter-Party Government considered Fine Gael's new leader, General Richard Mulcahy, to be too controversial a potential taoiseach. Notably, Clann na Poblachta under former Irish Republican Army chief of staff, Sean MacBride, were opposed to him because of his role as Chief of Staff of the Irish Army in the execution of republicans during the Irish Civil War. He stepped aside and former Fine Gael Attorney-General John A. Costello was chosen to head the government, which lasted from 1948 to 1951. Costello also headed the Second Inter-Party Government from 1954 to 1957.

The Just Society and Tom O'Higgins

Out of government, Fine Gael went into decline. In the mid 1960s, however, it launched a new policy statement, known as The Just Society, advocating policies based on principles of social justice and equality. That document was the brainchild of Declan Costello a Fine Gael TD and son of former Taoiseach John A Costello. This new strand of thinking in Fine Gael paved the way for the entry to the party of liberal thinkers such asGarret FitzGerald. Party Leaders of the time remained conservative but the seeds of the 1980s revolution had been sewn. In 1966, Fine Gael achieved a near miracle when its young presidential candidate, Tom O'Higgins, came within 1% of defeating the apparently unbeatable sitting president, Eamon de Valera, in that year's presidential election. O'Higgins came from the emerging Social Democrat wing of the party.

The National Coalition

In the wake of the arms crisis and Cosgrave's strong performances in opposition in defending the institutions of the State, the party was offered a route to Government with the Labour Party who had previously ruled out coalition. After a break of sixteen years, Fine Gael returned to power in 1973, at the head of a National Coalition government with Labour, under the leadership of Fine Gael leader Liam Cosgrave, son of W.T. Cosgrave. That government has generally been regarded as a good government, but was hit by frequent problems. Some of these were outside its control (for example the 1970s oil crisis) and the North, while others were its own direct creation - notably the verbal attack on President Ó Dalaigh by the Minister for Defence, Patrick Donegan, in which he called the President a "thundering disgrace". The President's subsequent resignation in 1976 severely damaged the National Coalition's reputation. In 1977 it suffered a heavy defeat, with Fianna Fáil winning an unprecedented 20-seat majority in the 148-seat Dáil. This was due in large part by the subtle gerrymandering that preceded the election.

Garret FitzGerald

Cosgrave resigned the leadership and was replaced by Garret FitzGerald. FitzGerald had been a successful Minister for Foreign Affairs in the National Coalition, his affable style and liberal views did much to change the stereotypical European view of Ireland. FitzGerald was one of Ireland's most popular politicians and son of Desmond FitzGerald, a Cumann na nGaedheal Minister for External Affairs. He moved Fine Gael to the left and promoted the Liberal Agenda. He also founded the autonomous youth movement Young Fine Gael while the party attracted thousands of new members. Fine Gael seemed trendy under FitzGerald's leadership. Fine Gael's revitalisation was of such a scale that by the December 1982 general election, Fine Gael was only five seats behind Fianna Fáil in Dáil Éireann and bigger than the party in the Oireachtas (both houses of parliament put together). As Taoiseach, FitzGerald attempted to create a more pluralist Republic. In 1985 after lengthy negotiations he succeeded in negotiating the Anglo-Irish-Agreement . This gave the Republic a say in the affairs of Northern Ireland while improving the Anglo-Irish relationship. FitzGerald headed three governments: 1981-February 1982, 1982-1987, and a shortlived Fine Gael minority government after Labour withdrew from the previous coalition. In 1987 the party was defeated in the general election. FitzGerald resigned and former Minister for Finance Alan Dukes replaced him. Like FitzGerald, Dukes came from Fine Gael's Social Democrat wing.

Decline, then the Rainbow Coalition

From a highpoint in the 1980s, Fine Gael went into slight, then sharp decline. Despite Dukes launching the Tallaght Strategy in 1987, the party gained just four seats in the following general Election. In 1990, its candidate in the Irish presidential election, Austin Currie, was pushed into a humiliating third place, behind the winner, Labour's Mary Robinson and Fianna Fáil's Brian Lenihan. This led to John Bruton replacing Alan Dukes as the party's leader. In 1989, political history was made when Fianna Fáil abandoned one of its "core principles", its opposition to coalition. Having failed in 1987 and 1989 to win outright majorities, Fianna Fáil entered into a coalition administration with the Progressive Democrats. Commentators predicted that that would leave Fine Gael isolated, with Fianna Fáil able to swap coalition partners to keep itself in continual power. That indeed seemed the case when, after the 1992 general election, Fianna Fáil replaced the Progressive Democrats with the Irish Labour Party. However the Fianna Fáil-Labour coalition disintegrated in 1994, allowing Bruton to emerge as Taoiseach of a three party Rainbow Coalition, involving Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left. This Government's first policy initiative was the introduction of Divorce which was ratified in a referendum by a narrow majority. The Government also oversaw unprecedented economic growth and Ireland's first budget surplus in over twenty years.However, the IRA ceasefire ended in 1996 stalling the peace process. The three parties worked well together and fought the 1997 election on a united platform. However the Government was defeated in the 1997 general election,despite Fine Gael gains, and replaced by a Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats coalition under Bertie Ahern.

Meltdown and Recovery

The party had little answer as popular Taoiseach Bertie Ahern cemented his title as the tefflon taoiseach. The party, facing a hostile media and criticism of Bruton's style of leadership, ditched him in 2001 in place of what was seen as the dream ticket of former Minister Michael Noonan for leader and former minister Jim Mitchell for deputy leader. However the dream ticket proved a disaster, as Fine Gael suffered its worst ever election result in the 2002 general election, declining from 54 TDs to 31. Many of its best TDs, including most of its front bench, in particular Deputy Leader Jim Mitchell, lost their seats. Noonan resigned on the night of the election result, and was replaced by Enda Kenny, who had been a Minister under Bruton. With the scale of the collapse, questions were asked as to whether the party had a future.

However, Fine Gael staged a remarkable recovery in local and European elections held on 11th June 2004. It won 5 of the Republic of Ireland's 13 European Parliament seats (compared to just 4 seats for the ruling Fianna Fáil party), and won almost the same number of local authority seats as Fianna Fáil.

The Fine Gael party has acheived an average of just over 30% of first preference votes in Irish elections since 1922

Public Representatives

Notable Teachtaí Dála are

For a list of Fine Gael Teachtaí Dála and MEPs, past and present see List of Irish politicians

Changes since the 2002 General Election

Liam Twomey, elected as an Independent for Wexford, joined the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party in September 2004.

John Bruton resigned his Dáil seat in November 2004 to become EU Ambassador to the US, and was replaced in the March 2005 by-election by Shane McEntee, also from Fine Gael.

Associated figures

Michael Collins, W.T Cosgrave, Eoin O'Duffy, Tom O'Higgins, John A. Costello, Liam Cosgrave, Garret FitzGerald, Alan Dukes, John Bruton, Nora Owen

Fine Gael in Europe

Fine Gael Members of the European Parliament elected in June 2004:

Fine Gael MEPs are part of the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats (EEP-ED) group in the European Parliament.

Fine Gael Front Bench

Young Fine Gael

Fine Gael have an active youth wing, Young Fine Gael. They were formed in 1977 by Garret FitzGerald and play an active part in the party's affairs and activities.

Additional Reading

  • Nealon's Guide to the 29th Dáil and Seanad (Gill and Macmillan, 2002) (ISBN 0717132889)
  • Stephen Collins, "The Cosgrave Legacy" (Blackwater, 1996) (ISBN 086121658X)
  • Garret FitzGerald, "Garret FitzGerald: An Autobiography" (Gill and Macmillan, 1991) (ISBN 071711600X)
  • Jack Jones, In Your Opinion: Political and Social Trends in Ireland through the Eyes of the Electorate (Townhouse, 2001) (ISBN 1860591493)
  • Maurice Manning, James Dillon: A Biography (Wolfhound, 1999/2000) (ISBN 086327823X)
  • Stephen O'Byrnes, Hiding Behind a Face: Fine Gael under FitzGerald (Gill and Macmillan: 1986) (ISBN 0717114481)
  • Raymond Smith, Garret: The Enigma (Aherlow, 1985) (no ISBN)

External link

Template:Political parties in Irelandde:Fine Gael fr:Fine Gael ga:Fine Gael he:פיין גייל nl:Fine Gael


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