|Leader||Leo Varadkar TD|
|Deputy Leader||Simon Coveney TD|
|Chairman||Martin Heydon TD|
|Seanad Leader||Senator Jerry Buttimer|
|Founder||W. T. Cosgrave,|
|Founded||8 September 1933|
|Headquarters||51 Upper Mount Street,|
Dublin 2, D02 W924, Ireland
|Youth wing||Young Fine Gael|
|LGBT+ wing||Fine Gael LGBT|
|European affiliation||European People's Party|
|International affiliation||Centrist Democrat International|
|European Parliament group||European People's Party|
|Slogan||Building a Republic of Opportunity|
Taking Ireland Forward Together
|European Parliament[nb 1]|
Fine Gael ( FEE-n? GAYL, FIN-? -,Irish: [?fn '?e:l]; English: "Family (or Tribe) of the Irish") is a liberal-conservativepolitical party in Ireland. Fine Gael is currently the governing and largest party in Ireland in terms of members of the Oireachtas and Irish members of the European Parliament. The party has a membership of 21,000 and is the senior partner governing in a minority coalition with several independent politicians, with party leader Leo Varadkar serving as Taoiseach. Varadkar succeeded Enda Kenny as party leader on 2 June 2017 and as Taoiseach on 14 June; Kenny had been leader since 2002, and Taoiseach since 2011.
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. 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 generally considered to be more of a proponent of market liberalism than its traditional rival, Fianna Fáil. However, apart from brief minority governments (as in 1987), Fine Gael has rarely governed Ireland without a coalition that also included the Labour Party, a social-democratic, centre-left party. Fine Gael describes itself as a "party of the progressive centre" which it defines as acting "in a way that is right for Ireland, regardless of dogma or ideology". It lists its core values as "equality of opportunity, free enterprise and reward, security, integrity and hope." 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.
Fine Gael adopted the 'Just Society' policy statement in the 1960s, based on principles of social justice and equality. It was created by the emerging social democratic wing of the party, led by Declan Costello. The ideas expressed in the policy statement had a significant influence on the party in the years to come.
While Fine Gael was traditionally socially conservative for most of the twentieth century due to the conservative Christian ethos of Irish society during this time, its members are variously influenced by social liberalism, social democracy and Christian democracy on issues of social policy. Under Garret FitzGerald, the party's more socially 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 declared his support for same-sex marriage. The Fine Gael-led government held a referendum on the subject on 22 May 2015. The referendum passed, with the electorate voting 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.
In 2015, months before the marriage equality referendum, Leo Varadkar became the first Irish government minister to come out as gay. In May 2019, former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh, was elected as a Fine Gael MEP for the Midlands-Northwest constituency in the 2019 European Parliament election, running alongside Mairéad McGuinness MEP. Walsh was Fine Gael's first openly lesbian candidate.
In 1983, having initially supported the proposal, Fine Gael came out in opposition to the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution that was being submitted in a referendum in 1983, which sought to introduce a constitutional prohibition on abortion. Under then leader and Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald it campaigned for a 'No' vote, arguing, on the advice of the Attorney General 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 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. Five TDs & two Senators, including Minister of State Lucinda Creighton, lost the Fine Gael party whip for voting against the legislation. Creighton later left Fine Gael to found Renua The Act was criticised by various pro-life groups and Catholic bishops, but supported by a majority of the electorate in opinion polls, with many indicating they wished to see a more liberal law on abortion.
Enda Kenny's Fine Gael-led minority government took office after the 2016 election with a programme which promised a randomly selected Citizens' Assembly to report on possible changes to the Eighth Amendment, which would be considered by an Oireachtas committee, to whose report the government would respond officially in debates in both houses of the Oireachtas. Fine Gael Oireachtas members were promised a free vote on the issue. Leo Varadkar succeeded Enda Kenny as Taoiseach on 14 June 2017 and promised to hold a referendum on abortion in 2018. Several Fine Gael TDs, notably Health Minister Simon Harris and Kate O'Connell, were prominent supporters of the pro-choice side before and during the referendum. While the party was divided, the majority of Fine Gael TDs and Senators, as well as most members, were in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment. A referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment was held on 25 May 2018 and was passed by 66.4% of voters.
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 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 (who has since left the party) and Leo Varadkar in particular have been seen as strong advocates of a neoliberal approach to Ireland's economic woes and 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 in 2011 suggested 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 sometimes 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 the Taoiseach Enda Kenny's assertion, in response to Ireland's economic crisis, that the national wage agreement should be suspended. Kenny's comments had support however and the party attributes its significant rise in polls in 2008 to this.
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 EUR18.2 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 proposed 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, was Fine Gael's proposed funding source for its national stimulus package.
The plan was 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 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 Fine Gael'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. The Labour Party has launched policies which are seen to be broadly consistent with the FG platform.
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. Fine Gael's Phil Hogan TD, now a European Commissioner, has published the party's proposals for political and constitutional reform. In a policy document entitled New Politics, Hogan 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 then Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, when he proposed his own constitutional "crusade" at his 2010 party conference, shortly after.
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 then 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 stated 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's then 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, German, Dutch and Austrian health systems.
Fine Gael is among the most pro-European integration parties in Ireland, having supported the European Constitution, the Lisbon Treaty, and advocating participation in European common defence. Under Enda Kenny, the party questioned Irish neutrality, with Kenny claiming that "the truth is, Ireland is not neutral. We are merely unaligned." The party's youth wing, Young Fine Gael, passed a motion in 2016 calling on the government to apply for membership of NATO.
Since Brexit, Fine Gael has taken a strong pro-European stance, stating that Ireland's place is 'at the heart of Europe'. In government, the party has launched the 'Global Ireland' plan to develop alliances with other small countries across Europe and the world.
Fine Gael is a founding member of the European People's Party (EPP), the largest European political party comprising liberal 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.
In the 2016 general election the outgoing government consisting of Fine Gael and its partner the Labour Party was defeated. The previous government had the largest majority in the history of the state with a combined 113 seats out of the 166-seat Dáil Éireann. The aftermath of the general election resulted in months of negotiations for an agreement of government. A deal was reached with the main opposition and traditional rival Fianna Fáil to facilitate a minority Fine Gael-led government. Fine Gael now governs Ireland alone with eight Independent members of the Dáil.
Under Leo Varadkar's leadership, Fine Gael continue to do well in opinion polls, remaining marginally ahead of Fianna Fáil in terms of popularity.
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 County 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.
The current leader of the Fine Gael party is Leo Varadkar, who, as well as being Ireland's youngest ever Taoiseach and is the country's first openly gay leader. The position of deputy leader has been held since 2017 by Simon Coveney TD, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The following are the terms of office as party leader and as Taoiseach (bolded) if applicable:
|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 and the 32nd Dáil)
|Leo Varadkar||2017-present||Dublin West||2017-present|
(Government of the 32nd 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||2010-2017||Dublin North|
|Simon Coveney||2017-present||Cork South-Central|
|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||2002-2007||Cultural and Educational Panel|
|Michael Finucane||2007 (acting)||Labour Panel|
|Frances Fitzgerald||2007-2011||Labour Panel|
|Maurice Cummins||2011-2016||Labour Panel|
|Jerry Buttimer||2016-present||Labour Panel|
|Election||Seats won||±||Position||First Pref votes||%||Government||Leader|
|1937||11||2nd||461,171||34.8%||Official Opposition||W. T. Cosgrave|
|1938||3||2nd||428,633||33.3%||Official Opposition||W. T. Cosgrave|
|1943||12||2nd||307,490||23.1%||Official Opposition||W. T. Cosgrave|
|1944||2||2nd||249,329||20.5%||Official Opposition||Richard Mulcahy|
|1948||1||2nd||262,393||19.8%||Minority Coalition Government (FG-LP-CnP-CnT-NLP)||Richard Mulcahy|
|1951||9||2nd||349,922||27.2%||Official Opposition||Richard Mulcahy|
|1954||10||2nd||427,031||32.0%||Coalition Government (FG-LP-CnT)||Richard Mulcahy|
|1957||10||2nd||326,699||26.6%||Official Opposition||Richard Mulcahy|
|1961||7||2nd||374,099||32.0%||Official Opposition||James Dillon|
|1965||2nd||427,081||34.1%||Official Opposition||James Dillon|
|1969||3||2nd||449,749||34.1%||Official Opposition||Liam Cosgrave|
|1973||4||2nd||473,781||35.1%||Coalition Government (FG-LP)||Liam Cosgrave|
|1977||11||2nd||488,767||30.5%||Official Opposition||Liam Cosgrave|
|1981||22||2nd||626,376||36.5%||Minority Coalition Government (FG-LP)||Garret FitzGerald|
|1982 (Feb)||2||2nd||621,088||37.3%||Official Opposition||Garret FitzGerald|
|1982 (Nov)||7||2nd||662,284||39.2%||Coalition Government (FG-LP)||Garret FitzGerald|
|1987||19||2nd||481,127||27.1%||Official Opposition||Garret FitzGerald|
|1989||4||2nd||485,307||29.3%||Official Opposition||Alan Dukes|
|1992||10||2nd||422,106||24.5%||Official Opposition (until December 1994)||John Bruton|
|Minority Coalition Government (FG-LP-DL) (from December 1994)|
|1997||9||2nd||499,936||27.9%||Official Opposition||John Bruton|
|2002||23||2nd||417,619||22.5%||Official Opposition||Michael Noonan|
|2007||20||2nd||564,428||27.3%||Official Opposition||Enda Kenny|
|2011||25||1st||801,628||36.1%||Coalition Government (FG-LP)||Enda Kenny|
|2016||26||1st||544,410||25.5%||Minority government (C&S from Fianna Fáil)||Enda Kenny|
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 35 with an interest in Fine Gael and politics, in cities, towns 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.