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"IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom. [...] We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty: six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and its exaltation among the nations. The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past."
Proclamation of the Irish Republic, 1916 (part)

Ireland (Éire, "air-ruh") is a republic consisting of 26 traditional counties of Ireland, which was from 1922-37 called the Irish Free State.

Irish is the official first language of the State and so most elements of the government are known by their Irish names.


The Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann) is composed of a Preamble and fifty Articles. It can only be changed by referendum (a vote of all adult citizens), and it has been changed thirty-three times since its adoption in 1937. Oddities and controversies in the constitution include:

  • The explicitly religious preamble. When first drafted, some Roman Catholics wanted "In the name of Our Lady of Lourdes". The government settled on a Fair for Its Day "In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity" which was acceptable to Roman Catholics, the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterians and the Methodists, who made up probably 95 plus percent of the population at the time.
  • It also states that "all powers of government derive, under God, from the people", another one for Richard Dawkins to get at.
  • The name of the State is simply Ireland (Irish: Éire). 'Republic of Ireland' is a description of the state and a convenient way to tell it apart from the island Ireland and the UK part of Northern Ireland. Éire conveniently means the 26 counties of the Republic. Calling it that in conversation will usually get you funny looks. note 
  • The Irish language is the 'first official language', even though few speak it (deirtear gur teanga deacair í a fhoghlaim, agus ní mhúintear maith í sa scoil freisin), while English is a 'second language', despite being the mother tongue of 95 plus percent of citizens.
  • Titles of nobility are not awarded by the State, and citizens must gain permission before accepting such titles from a foreign state (e.g. Sir Bono). Oddly enough, many Irish cities have a Lord Mayor/Lady Mayoress but this does not count as a title of nobility.
  • Article 41.2 is seen as sexist:
    Subsection 1: In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.
    Subsection 2: The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.
    • However, what few people realize is that this is the constitutional guarantee of Children's Allowance.
  • LGBT activists protest that Article 41.3.1˚ states that "The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of marriage, on which the Family is founded", which impinges the rights of same-sex unions; this issue is now moot after the passage of the Thirty-Fourth Amendment formally establishing that both same-sex and opposite-sex couples have a right to marry (don't ask how there have been thirty-three amendments and this one is the thirty-fourth). It also affects men's rights, such as State (Nicolaou) v. An Bord Uchtála which judged that an unmarried father could not prevent his child's mother from placing their child for adoption, as they were not a 'Family'.
  • Abortion is a contentious issue in any society: the Pro-Life Amendment of 1983 added to the constitution that "The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right."
    • This became a thorny issue in Attorney General v. X ("the X case", 1992) in which a 14-year-old, pregnant through rape, claimed to be suicidal and wanted to travel to the UK for an abortion. Two referenda ruled that she (and all other pregnant Irish women/girls) could leave Ireland to get an abortion, and could access information on foreign abortion services. A 2002 amendment to remove the risk of suicide by the mother as grounds for abortion failed narrowly.
      • After years of campaigning for a referendum, the amendment was successfully repealed in 2018, with 66.4% voting Yes. Legislation was enacted at the end of the year.

A landmark 1987 Supreme Court case, Crotty v. An Taoiseach, ruled that "the state's power to determine its foreign relations was held in trust from the people and could not be alienated by the government", and that therefore any treaty which modified Ireland's foreign relations had to be ratified by referendum. This led to:

  • Twenty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2001 to ratify the Nice Treaty: No (53.9%)
    • Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 2002 to ratify the Nice Treaty: Yes (62.9%)
  • Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2008 to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon: No (53.2%)
    • Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty of Lisbon) Act 2009: Yes (67.1%)

Do you notice a pattern here? (Quand elles disent "non, non", elles pensent "Oui Oui"!)


The head of state is the President (Uachtarán) ("ook-ta-rawn"), elected for a seven year term, who has very limited powers.

  • If the Taoiseach has lost the support of the Dáil, the Taoiseach may request a dissolution of the Oireachtas, which the President could refuse to grant, and instead the Dáil would elect a new Taoiseach without a general election.
  • If a majority of the Senate and one third of the Dáil disagree with a Bill, the President may refer it to a national vote — this power has never been used.
  • If he/she believes a bill is 'repugnant' to the Constitution, he/she may refer it to the Supreme Court.

Ireland's presidents have been:

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    1. Douglas Hyde  
Years: 1938 — 1945 Party: All-party nomination

Douglas Hyde (1860—1949) was Ireland's first president after the office's creation in 1945. A scholar and a leading advocate for the use of the Irish language, he founded Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League), an organisation that supports the use of Irish in Ireland and elsewhere. He appeared on the old Irish £50 banknote.

    2. Seán T. O'Kelly  
Years: 1945 — 1959 Party: Fianna Fáil

Seán Thomas O'Kelly (1882—1962) was Ireland's second president. He had previously served a number of roles in government such as Deputy Prime Minister/Tánaiste (1932—1945) and Ceann Comhairle (1919—1921). O'Kelly was the first Irish president to visit the United States in 1959 and helped get Ireland get recognised by the latter as a new republic.

    3. Éamon de Valera  
Years: 1959 — 1973 Party: Fianna Fáil

Éamon de Valera (1882—1975) needs no introduction. A key figure in the independence movement and many-time Taoiseach before he was given the presidency. This may have been his plan; an architect of the republican constitution, he's reported as having said he designed the post of President as "a nice easy job for my old age". More information on him can be found on the Taoisigh page.

    4. Erskine Hamilton Childers  
Years: 1973 — 1974 Party: Fianna Fáil

Erskine Childers (1905—1974), not to be confused with his father Robert Erskine Childers (author of The Riddle of the Sands and executed in the Civil War) was the fourth president of Ireland. He died in office in November 1974. His wife Rita wanted to take over his office but Fianna Fáil didn't support this action. His daughter Nessa was an MEP for the East Ireland constituency from 2009 to 2019.

    5. Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh  
Years: 1974 — 1976 Party: Fianna Fáil

Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh Pronunciation  (1911—1978) took over after Childers died. He was in office for less than two years, since he did not get on well with the Fine Gael/Labour coalition and in particular Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave. The only president to resign the position.

    6. Patrick John Hillery  
Years: 1976 — 1990 Party: Fianna Fáil

Patrick Hillery (1923—2008) took over when Ó Dálaigh resigned. A relatively scandal and drama-free president compared to his two predecessors and their short periods in the presidency. He served out two full terms, the first to do so since de Valera. He was also one of the three (alongside Hyde and Ó Dálaigh) to be elected unopposed (without the need to have a popular vote since there were no other candidates).

    7. Mary Robinson  
Years: 1990 — 1997 Party: Labour Party & Workers' Party

Mary Robinson (b 1944) was the seventh president and notable for two things: being the first woman to hold the office; and being the first person since Douglas Hyde to be from a party other than Fianna Fáil. Seen as a surprise winner of the election for many, since Brian Lenihan Sr (father of the minister with the same name) had been leading the polls all along. She actually got less first preference votes than Lenihan but under Ireland's election method, when the third candidate Austin Currie (from Fine Gael) was eliminated, his second preferences for Robinson were more than those of Lenihan's, thus winning her the election (yes, it's complicated and most Irish people don't even have a good idea how this works!). She served one term, during which she was known for her liberal views on issues such as immigration and the death penalty in the US. After her presidency, she has continued to be involved in human rights issues. She is also known for being caricatured by David McSavage on The Savage Eye as "Ireland's President for Life", and her election being a major background element of the first series of Moone Boy.

    8. Mary McAleese  
Years: 1997 — 2011 Party: Fianna Fáil

Mary McAleese (b 1951) was the eighth president and the second woman to hold the office. She was also the first president of Ireland to be from Northern Ireland; she was born in Belfast but had moved to Dublin for university and later a career as a barrister; she eventually became Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College, Dublin, succeeding, er, Mary Robinson (same one). Like her predecessor, she concerned herself during her presidency with social justice issues, human rights and LGBT rights. She was known for reaching out to the Unionist people of Northern Ireland and trying to maintain peace between the two main religions in Ireland. She has liberal views regarding female priests and LGBT people despite being a practicing Catholic. She presided over the first visit of a UK monarch to Ireland in a hundred years in 2011 when she welcomed Queen Elizabeth II.

    9. Michael D. Higgins  
Years: 2011 — Party: Labour Party

Michael Daniel Higgins (b 1941) is the ninth and current president. He won the extremely bitter and divisive election in October 2011 by a large margin. Since coming to office, he has been vocal about a lot of issues. He also met the Queen on the first state visit to the UK of an Irish head of state since independence in 2014. In 2018, he stormed to a landslide victory and became only the second Irish President (after Dev) to win both terms at the ballot box (previous two-term presidents had all secured their second term uncontested.)

Oireachtas (Legislature)

The Oireachtas ("urr-okh-tass"; Parliament) is composed of:

  • A lower house entitled Dáil Éireann ("dawl air-rin"; Assembly of Ireland; also referred in English in the Constitution as a 'House of Representatives').
    • This Dáil contains of 166 TDs (Teachta Dála = Assembly Delegate; "chokta dawla"; referred to in English as 'Deputy' eg 'Deputy Martin', 'Deputy Adams') elected for five-year terms and is far more important. Due to a very powerful party whip system, virtually all Dáil votes are decided in advance and so debate in the chambers of Leinster House is turgid and minimal. Most TDs are stereotyped as mainly concerning themselves with performing piffling services for their constituents in the hope of re-election and possible promotion to junior minister or minister while the Taoiseach, Cabinet and various vested interests decide amongst themselves what the country really needs.

  • An upper house entitled Seanad Éireann ("shannud air-rin"; Senate of Ireland)
    • The Senate (60 Senators) has only delaying powers and is largely powerless, comparable to the UK's House Of Lordsnote . There was a referendum in October 2013 by the current government to decide whether or not to abolish it, which was won by the 'No' side; it will remain (although whether or not the Taoiseach will reform it to make it more democratic and relevant remains to be seen).
      • 43 Senators are elected by five 'vocational panels' — Administrative, Agricultural, Cultural and Educational, Industrial and Commercial, and Labour. In theory, these are women and men with special knowledge and abilities in their areas — in practice, they are almost all party hacks; either failed general election candidates or young guns who stand a chance of a Dáil seat at the next general election. This is made inevitable by the fact that the electorate for these seats are City and County Councillors, members of the new Dáil and members of the outgoing Seanad.
      • 6 Senators are elected by university graduates; 3 from the University of Dublin and 3 from the National University of Ireland. There is no representation, therefore, for the University of Limerick or Dublin City University (DCU) since these two institutions didn't exist at the time that the Constitution was written (Other recently created colleges, such as NUI Maynooth, are able to vote thanks to their 'National University of Ireland status' — this 'NUI' doesn't refer to any particular institutions but is a sort of federation that encompasses Galway, UCD, the aforementioned Maynooth and many other universities around the country).
      • 11 Senators are nominated by the Taoiseach, ensuring a comfortable government majority. Can lead to obvious 'jobs for the boys', like with Eoghan Harris full story , Ivor Callely full story  and Fidelma Healy-Eames full story  .

Government (Executive)

A majority of TDs elects a Taoiseach ("tee-shokh", Prime Minister) who appoints a Tánaiste ("taw-nish-ta"; deputy PM) and a Cabinet of (currently) 14 Ministers who lead the government departments and form the executive branch. All ministers must be Oireachtas members, no more than two of which can be Senators. There are also 15 Ministers of State ('junior ministers'). The constitution places three limits on executive power: the Cabinet may not declare war or ratify treaties without the Dáil's approval, and, obviously, the Cabinet cannot disobey the constitution.

The current senior ministers and junior ministers (in sub-bullets) are:

  • Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine
    • Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity
    • Minister of State for Research & Development, Farm Safety and New Market Development
  • Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
  • Minister for Defence
    • Minister of State at the Department of Defence
  • Minister for Education
    • Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion
  • Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment
    • Minister of State for Employment Affairs and Retail Businesses
    • Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation
  • Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications
    • Minister of State for Postal Policy
    • Minister of State for Communications and the Circular economy
    • Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications
  • Minister for Finance
  • Minister for Foreign Affairs
    • Minister of State for International development and the Diaspora
    • Minister of State for European Affairs
  • Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science
  • Minister for Health
    • Minister of State for Disability
    • Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People
    • Minister of State for Public Health, Well Being, National Drugs Strategy
    • Minister of State at the Department of Health
  • Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage
    • Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform
    • Minister of State for Local Government and Planning
  • Minister for Justice
  • Minister for Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform
    • Minister of State for the Office of Public Works
    • Minister of State for Public Procurement and eGovernment
  • Minister for Rural and Community Development
    • Minister of State for Community Development and Charities (Also associated with the Department of Social Protection)
  • Minister for Social Protection
    • Minister of State for Redundancy and Insolvency Operations and Employer Services
  • Minister for Transport
    • Minister of State for International and Road Transport and Logistics
  • Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media (Gaeltacht meaning the primarily Irish-speaking parts of Ireland)
    • Minister of State for Gaeltacht
    • Minister of State for Sport and Physical Education
  • Minister without portfolio

On the 26th of June 2020, historical rivals Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael voted to enter a coalition government with the Green Party, an unprecedented situation that was mainly forced on them due to Sinn Féin's historical gains in the 2020 February general election and both parties unwillingness to form a coalition with them. It was determined that the position of Taoiseach would rotate between Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar, the leaders of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael respectively, every two years approximately.

Historical Taoisigh:

  • W.T. Cosgrave (Cumann na nGaedhael; previously pro-treaty Sinn Féin) note 
  • Eamon DeValera (FF; previously Sinn Féin, then anti-treaty Sinn Féin)
  • John A. Costello (FG; previously Cumann na nGaedhael)
  • Seán Lemass (FF; previously Sinn Féin, then anti-treaty Sinn Féin)
  • Jack Lynch (FF)
  • Liam Cosgrave (FG) (Son of W.T. Cosgrave)
  • Charlie Haughey (FF)
  • Garret FitzGerald (FG)
  • Albert Reynolds (FF)
  • John Bruton (FG)
  • Bertie Ahern (FF)
  • Brian Cowen (FF)
  • Enda Kenny (FG)
  • Leo Varadkar (FG)
  • Micheal Martin (FF)

Political parties

Unlike many other countries, the largest political parties in Ireland are not based in any particular ideology. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the only two parties to have ever provided the Taoiseach, are derived historically from the Pro-Treaty and Anti-Treaty factions of Sinn Féin during the Irish Civil War, and have since crystallized into what are best described as political machines. Both are characterized as being on the Right, with Fine Gael being slightly more conservative and having developed a more socially-oriented ideology, while Fianna Fáil is identified as being more free-market. Theoretically, anyway.
  • Fine Gael ("finnuh gale"; "Tribe of Gaels/Family of the Irish"): (34 TDs, 16 Sen, 5 MEPs, 254 local).
    Current Leader: Leo Varadkar (TD, Dublin West).
    A right-of-centre Christian Democrat party espousing business interests and neoliberalism, although on account of their very Catholic focus, the neoliberalism is tempered by Catholic social teaching and the support for a public safety net that entails. Historically drawn from Sinn Féin members supporting the Anglo-Irish Treaty who called themselves Cumann na nGaedhael ("Society of the Gaels"), who merged with the National Centre Party and the National Guard (the quasi-fascist "Blueshirts") to form Fine Gael in 1933. As of the 2016 election which produced a hung Dáil, currently governs as a minority administration by incorporating 8 Independent T Ds into the Cabinet, and agreeing a confidence-and-supply agreement with Fianna Fáil.
  • Fianna Fáil ("fee-anna fawl"; "Warriors of Ireland" or "Soldiers of Destiny") (36 TDs, 21 Sen, 2 MEPs, 276 local).
    Current Leader: Micheál Martin (TD, Cork South-Central).
    A right-wing populist republican party which has ruled the country for most of its existence; it was most recently in power from June 1997 to March 2011. Historically drawn from Sinn Féin members opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty which established the Irish Free State, who were nevertheless pragmatic enough to realize they'd been beaten in the Civil War and would have to get their Republic through elections and internal reform of the Free State (this was Éamon de Valera's strategy, and FF is his party). In modern times FF has become synonymous with the corrupt élite who had an all-too-close relationship with property developers and senior bankers, fuelling the implosion of the Irish property bubble and the near-collapse of the State. Jokes about "fail" are understandably rather common (if memory serves, even The Economist has gotten in on the action). Their loss to Fine Gael in the 2011 election was not only the biggest in party history, but the worst ever in Irish politics and among the worst in Europe - they lost fifty-seven seats, beating the previous record of just fifteen. They have however recovered to an extent in the 2016 elections, at least enough to produce a hung Dáil. Have an official presence in Northern Ireland, and thus are allowed to stand for local government there, but as of yet have never contested elections.
  • Labour Party (Páirtí an Lucht Oibre) (7 TDs, 4 Sen, 56 local).
    Current Leader: Ivana Bacik (TD, Dublin Bay South).
    A left-of-centre social democrat party. Affiliated with several trade unions, including Ireland's biggest union SIPTU. Founded in 1912, during the 1990's it absorbed several smaller socialist and social democrat parties including the Independent Socialist Party, the Democratic Socialist Party, and finally Democratic Left in 1999. Historically firm allies of Fine Gael. Saw their vote catastrophically collapse at the 2016 election, most likely as backlash from their coalition with Fine Gael.
  • Sinn Féin ("shin fane"; "We Ourselves"note ) (RoI: 36 TDs, 4 Sen, 1 MEP, 80 local; NI: 7 MPs, 27 MLAs, 1 MEP, 104 local).
    Current Leader: Mary Lou McDonald (TD, Dublin Central).
    A left-wing republican party with "close ties" to the Provisional IRA. They were historically the party that split off from the "original" Sinn Féin in 1970 when it changed its name to the Workers' Party (for which see below) and decided to participate in RoI electoral politics; they nevertheless began taking seats in the Republic (and later, the NI Assembly) starting in the early 1980s. With the reversal of the Greens' policy on the EU, Sinn Féin is now the only Eurosceptic political party in the country with representation in the Dáilnote . Had a remarkably good time of the 2011 elections, picking up nine seats and becoming the fourth-largest party in the Dáil.note 
  • People Before Profit-Solidarity (RoI: 5 TDs, 10 local; NI: 1 MLA, 5 localnote ).
    Current Leader: Collective.
    An electoral coalition of two socialist parties - Solidarity, and the People Before Profit Alliance. PBPA also contest elections (without Solidarity) in Northern Ireland.
  • Independents 4 Change (4 TDs, 1 local).
    Current Leader: None, nominally Mick Wallace (TD, Wexford).
    An alliance of four formerly-Independent TDs, registered as a political party. Policies are broadly left-wing.
  • The Green Party (Comhaontas Glas) (2 TDs, 1 Sen, 2 MLAs, 12 local).
    Current Leader: Eamon Ryan (TD, Dublin Bay South).
    An environmentalist party, founded in 1981. Until relatively recently it had a vocal eurosceptic wing but is now strongly pro-The European Union. Had a ridiculously bad time of the 2011 elections; having been Fianna Fáil's coalition partners, they found themselves totally wiped out, but have since regained two seats in the Dáil as of 2016 and had a resurgence during the 2019 local and European elections dubbed the "Green Wave".
  • The Social Democrats (Daonlathaigh Shóisialta) (6 TDs, 20 local).
    Current Leader: Holly Cairns (TD, Cork South-West).
    A political party formed in 2015 by former independents. Broadly centre-left in policies.
  • Aontú (1 TD, 3 local); NI: 2 local: Unite (ayn-to), minor all-Ireland republican party founded by a TD who resigned from Sinn Féin over his opposition to abortion. Combines elements of social conservatism with advocacy for a united Ireland and centre-left economics. Essentially, Sinn Féin's equivalent to Renua.

  • Right to Change (1 TD): minor political party that split off from People Before Profit, more focused on trade unionism.
  • Independent politicians play a large role in Irish politics, making up 22 TDs and 10 Sen.

Minor parties with no current national representation

  • New Vision: a loose grouping of reformist independents.
  • The Socialist Party (Páirtí Sóisialach): A Trotskyist party with considerable support in North Dublin.
  • Workers' Party of Ireland (Páirtí na nOibrithe) (2 local): a Marxist-Leninist party, formerly known as Sinn Féin the Workers Party and historically linked to the Official IRA.
  • Renua Ireland One of Ireland's newest parties - a Fine Gael splinter party formed in 2015 by Lucinda Creighton and financial advisor/TV personality Eddie Hobbs. Broadly neo-liberal on economic issues and socially conservative, Creighton having been expelled from Fine Gael for defying the party whip with regard to the party's (vaguely) pro-abortion-in-life-or-death-circumstances stance. Roughly speaking, Fine Gael's PDs. After much big talk before the 2016 election, every sitting member lost their seat and not one new candidate was elected. Their only Oireachtas member is Lucinda Creighton's husband, who retains his Seanad seat from before the party's founding.
  • South Kerry Independent Alliance (1 local): made up of ex-Labour Party members.
  • Communist Party of Ireland: a Marxist-Leninist party.
  • Seniors Solidarity Party (Páirtí Dlúthpháirtíochta leis an Aosta): a party agitating on behalf of over-60s.
  • Socialist Workers Party (Páirtí na nOibrithe Sóisialacha): another Trotskyist party.
  • Christian Solidarity Party (An Comhar Críostaí): a pro-life Roman Catholic party.
  • Republican Sinn Féin (Sinn Féin Poblachtach): an extremist republican party linked to the Continuity IRA.
  • Irexit Freedom Party/Irish Freedom Party: An extreme Eurosceptic party founded by Hermann Kelly in 2018, their goal is for Ireland to withdraw from the European Union, essentially making them an Irish UKIP. While not the first attempt at a party with this goal in mind, they have certainly become one of the most publicised. They contested the European elections in 2019 and won no seats, though Kelly has been very vocal on Irish media, being a journalist by profession.
  • The National Party: A far right Eurosceptic party in a similar vein to the IFP led by Justin Barrett. Notably had a candidate run in the vein 2020 general election who ran with the slogan "There are too many immigrants" despite himself being an American immigrant.

Historical parties

  • Progressive Democrats (An Páirtí Daonlathach): the PDs were a neoliberal group who split from Fianna Fáil in 1984 due to opposition to Charlie Haughey, and disbanded in 2009. They can basically be summarized as "FF, with a semblance of principle."
  • Clann na Poblachta ("Family of the People") (1946-65): a broadly republican social democratic party.
  • Farmers' Party (1922-32): an agrarian party.
  • Clann na Talmhan ("Family of the Land") (1938-65): a populist agrarian party, initially viewed as a farmers' party representing the interests of both large landholders and and small farmers such as the lowering of taxes on farm lands and government support for land reclaimation, it began to adopt more social democratic policies in the forties such as free secondary education and subsidised university education. Its success was primarily due to it successfully challenging Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael's rural voters, denouncing the the ‘party bosses in Dublin’, who according to them, had turned democracy into ‘a veiled dictatorship'. The party was part of the first two inter-party governments and began to lose support as Ireland's economic situation continued to deteriorate, ultimately turning into a collection of personal electoral machines, finally winding up when party leader and last remaining TD, Joseph Blowick, decided not to contest the 1965 general election.
  • Democratic Left (Daonlathas Clé) (1992-99): Socialist party which split from the Workers' Party and later joined the Labour Party.
  • Irish Parliamentary Party (Páirtí Parlaiminteach na hÉireann) (1874-1921): arguably the most important political party in Irish history. Founded by Isaac Butt and later led by Charles Stuart Parnell, "Uncrowned King of Ireland". Also provided many innovations to British politics, having the first effective whip (Richard Power) and also paid stipends to MPs from party funds, meaning that they didn't have to be independently wealthy to be in the House Of Commons. Led the Land League, then were disastrously split by Parnell's affair with a married womannote  A reunited party led by John Redmond led the campaign for Home Rule, but after the 1916 Easter Rising the party was eclipsed by Sinn Féin. In 1921, a rump formed the Nationalist Party and gradually disintegrated.
  • Repeal Association (1832-47): led by Daniel O'Connell, aimed to repeal the 1800 Act of Union and create an independent Kingdom of Ireland, separate from the UK but (probably) in personal union with Britain (i.e. sharing the same monarch). The idea would be to return the situation to how they were before the Act of Union, but with minimal British meddling in Irish affairs and (of course) Catholic Emancipation.


Ireland's court system is centralised at the Four Courts (na Ceithre Chúirt) in Dublin — these originally (in 1802) were the Chancery, King's Bench, Exchequer and Common Pleas; today the Four Courts are the Supreme Court, High Court, Central Criminal Court and Dublin Circuit Court.

Judges are appointed by the Government, but once appointed cannot be removed, and the Constitution prevents the Government from cutting their salaries as a punishment for "disobedience".

  • Supreme Court (Cúirt Uachtarach) (9 judges)
    • Court of Criminal Appeal (Cúirt Achomhaire Choiriúil; 3 judges — one from Supreme Court, two from High Court)
    • Special Criminal Court (Cúirt Choiriúil Speisialta) (used in organised crime and terrorist crimes; 3 judges — one each from the Supreme, Circuit and District Courts)
  • Court of Appeal (An Chúirt Achomhairc)
    • A new court which will be formed sometime in the future as a result of the 33rd Amendment. It will hear appeals from the High Court, thus taking some of the burden off the Supreme Court, except in cases of public interest or in the interest of justice.
  • High Court (Ard-Chúirt) (32 judges max.)
  • Circuit Court (Cúirt Chuarda) (8 circuits, 33 judges)
  • District Court (Cúirt Dúiche) (63 judges)

Local Government

There are county councils representing the 26 traditional counties, except that County Dublin is divided into Fingal County, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County and South Dublin County; County Tipperary was split into South and North Ridings until 2014; and the cities of Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford are administrated separately to their counties.

There are also five borough councils (Clonmel, Drogheda, Kilkenny, Sligo, Wexford) and 67 town councils — the awarding of 'town' status is very haphazard: an extreme example — Ballybay, Co. Monaghan; Lismore, Co. Longford; and Granard, Co. Waterford all have populations under 1,000 and are all legally towns and have town councils, but Celbridge, Co. Kildare (pop. 17,000) is still legally a village and does not have a town council.

In any case, local government has progressively lost control over services to national and regional bodies. For instance, local control of education has largely been passed to Vocational Education Committees (Coistí Gairm Oideachais), whilst other bodies such as the Department of Education and Science (Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta) still hold significant powers. In 1970 local government lost its health remit, which had been already eroded by the creation of the Department of Health in 1947, to the Health Board system, and later the 2004 creation of the Health Service Executive (Feidhmeannacht na Serbhíse Sláinte). In the 1990s the National Roads Authority (Údarás urn Bóithre Náisiúnta) took overall authority for national roads projects, supported by local authorities who maintain the non-national roads system. In 1993 the Environmental Protection Agency (Gníomhaireacht um Chaomhnú Comhshaoil) was established to underpin a more proactive and co-ordinated national and local approach to protecting the environment. An Bord Pleanála ("the Planning Board") was seen as another inroad into local government responsibilities. Additionally, the trend has been to remove decision-making from elected councillors to full-time professionals and officials. In particular, every city and county has a manager, who is the chief executive but is also a public servant appointed by the Public Appointments Service, and is thus answerable to the national government as well as the local council. Therefore, local policy decisions are often heavily influenced by the TDs who represent the local constituency in the Dáil, and may be dictated by national politics rather than local needs.

Local government bodies now have responsibility for such matters as planning, local roads, sanitation, and libraries. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has responsibility for local authorities and related services.

Fiction depicting Irish politics:

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