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A beginner's guide to Irish political parties

Given that the video is not suitable for subtitles, a transcription is provided below.


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In 1801, the Irish parliament was abolished and the Act of Union came into force.

Its legislative independence, gained in 1782, was revoked.

Daniel O'Connell agitated for Catholic Emancipation (1829), which created a Catholic middle class.

Catholics could now sit in the British parliament.

Isaac Butt founded the Home Rule League in 1873.

This ultimately became the Irish Parliamentary Party.

Under Charles Stewart Parnell, the party's support base was widened dramatically and land reform was to the fore of its platform.

Parnell was ousted in 1890.

The Irish Parliamentary Party dominated Irish politics until 1918.

The Ulster Unionist Council was founded in opposition to Home Rule in 1905.

This became the Ulster Unionist Party, and in 1910 Edward Carson became its leader.

The IPP held the balance of power in Westminster and forced the Liberal Party to promise Home Rule in exchange for its support.

IPP leader John Redmond did not take account of unionists’ concerns.

Carson’s influence ensured that Ulster gained an opt-out of the Home Rule bill of 1914, potentially ensuring partition.

Redmond encouraged Irishmen to enlist in the British Army in WWI to ensure Home Rule would be enacted.

This caused a major split.

In 1905, Arthur Griffith founded Sinn Féin, proposing a dual monarchy for Ireland and Britain.

He cited Austro-Hungary as a model.

When the 1916 Rising broke out, Sinn Féin was mistakenly credited with it, and its support increased.

Éamon de Valera became Sinn Féin leader in 1917.

Sinn Féin won a majority in the 1918 election and established an independent Republic and parliament.

In 1920, Britain brought in an Act which partitioned Ireland.

6 of Ulster's 9 counties were separated from the rest of Ireland and called Northern Ireland.

The exclusion of Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan ensured a permanent Protestant majority.

The rest of Ireland was to be called Southern Ireland.

Both parts were to have their own Home Rule assembly within the Empire.

In January 1922 the independent Irish parliament narrowly accepted the 1920 Act.

Under a new treaty with Britain, 'Southern Ireland' was to be called 'the Irish Free State'.

Arthur Griffith led the pro-treaty party, Cumann na nGaedheal.

De Valera led political opposition to the treaty.

The British government pushed for war, which occurred on 28 June 1922.

In 1926, de Valera founded a new political party, Fianna Fáil, which sought to undo the treaty.

In 1932, Fianna Fáil joined with the Labour Party to form a government.

The British government was alarmed.

The Blueshirts, a fascist organisation led by one of Michael Collins's associates, attempted to oust de Valera.

In 1933, the Blueshirts merged with Cumann na nGaedheal to form Fine Gael.

Events in the 1930s allowed the Fianna Fáil government to detatch from Crown rule.

A coalition government including Fine Gael formally declared a Republic in 1948. De Valera opposed the move, as reinforcing partition.

Since the 1930s, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have dominated the political landscape. Fianna Fáil were called the "men of no property" and Fine Gael was the party of wealthy farmers.

Fianna Fáil is now a centre-right party.

Sinn Féin's importance declined until the start of the war in Northern Ireland (1969). The party was associated with the IRA.

After the Good Friday Agreement (1998), it gained ground in the North at the expense of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).

In 1972, the Northern Ireland assembly was suspended and Direct Rule from London was imposed.

In 1999, the UK parliament devolved powers to the Northern Ireland assembly once more. This time, power was shared among the communities.

The main parties currently active in Northern Ireland include:

Democratic Unionist Party - founded by Ian Paisley

  • Sinn Féin

  • Ulster Unionist Party

  • SDLP

  • Alliance Party - a cross-community platform

  • Green Party

  • Progressive Unionist Party - left-wing party associated with loyalist paramilitaries



Sinn Féin struggled in the Republic for many years and split several times.

Parties formed from the split included the Workers' Party and Democratic Left, which later merged with the Labour Party.

Other defunct parties in the Republic include Clann na Poblachta (in government 1948 to 1951) and the Progressive Democrats.

The PDs were an off-shoot of Fianna Fáil and were known for privatising cancer services (2007-9).

In the election of February 2020, Sinn Féin gained 24.5% of the vote, the largest of any party.

Sinn Féin was excluded from negotiations for government. No reason was given.



Fine Gael made a coalition with Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar stated that the three parties had a "very strong mandate".


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