Fianna Fáil - The Republican Party (Irish: Fianna Fáil - An Páirtí Poblachtánach), more commonly known as Fianna Fáil is a political party in the Republic of Ireland, founded on 23 March 1926. Fianna Fáil's name is traditionally translated into English as Soldiers of Destiny, although a more accurate rendition would be Warriors of Fál ("Fál" being a legendary name for Ireland). Historically Fianna Fáil has been seen as to the left of Fine Gael and to the right of the Labour Party and is generally seen as a classic "catch all" populist party representing a broad range of people from all social classes. Fianna Fáil has led governments including parties of the left (Labour Party and Green Party) and of the right (Progressive Democrats) and is often seen as a pragmatic party of the establishment.
Since the formation of the first Fianna Fáil government on 9 March 1932, the party has been in power for 61 of the last 79 years. Its longest continuous period in office was 15 years and 11 months (March 1932-February 1948). Its single longest period out of office, in that time, has been 4 years and 4 months (March 1973-July 1977). Seven of the party's eight leaders have served as Taoiseach. It was the largest party in Dáil Éireann at every general election from the 1932 general election until the 2011 general election, when it suffered the worst defeat of a sitting government in the history of the Irish state, a loss described as "historic" in its proportions. It is currently the third-largest party in the 31st Dáil.
Fianna Fáil joined the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party on 16 April 2009, and has sat in its associated Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group in the European Parliament since the 2009 European elections.
Leader and president:
Although the posts of leader and party president of Fianna Fáil are separate, with the former elected by the Parliamentary Party and the latter elected by the Ardfheis (thus allowing for the posts to be held by different people, in theory), in practice they have always been held by the one person. However, as the Ardfheis may have already been held in any given year by the time a new leader is elected, the selection of the new party president might not take place until the next year.
The following are the terms of office for the leader:
Éamon de Valera (1926-1959)
Seán Lemass (1959-1966)
Jack Lynch (1966-1979)
Charles Haughey (1979-1992)
Albert Reynolds (1992-1994)
Bertie Ahern (1994-2008)
Brian Cowen (2008-2011)
Micheál Martin (2011-present)
The chart below shows a timeline of Fianna Fáil leaders and the Presidents of the Executive Council and Taoiseach. The left bar shows all the leaders of Fianna Fáil, and the right bar shows the corresponding make-up of the Irish government at that time. The colours correspond to which party led the government. The last names of the respective heads of government are shown, and the Roman numeral stands for the cabinets.
General election results:
Election Dáil Share of votes Seats Outcome of election
1927 (Jun) 5th 26.2% 44 Cumann na nGaedhael government
1927 (Sep) 6th 35.2% 57 Cumann na nGaedhael government
1932 7th 44.5% 72 Fianna Fáil government
1933 8th 49.7% 76 Fianna Fáil government
1937 9th 45.2% 68 Fianna Fáil government
1938 10th 51.9% 76 Fianna Fáil government
1943 11th 41.8% 66 Fianna Fáil government
1944 12th 48.9% 75 Fianna Fáil government
1948 13th 41.9% 67 Inter-party (1st) government
1951 14th 46.3% 68 Fianna Fáil government
1954 15th 43.4% 65 Inter-party (2nd) government
1957 16th 48.3% 78 Fianna Fáil government
1961 17th 43.8% 70 Fianna Fáil government
1965 18th 47.7% 72 Fianna Fáil government
1969 19th 44.6% 74 Fianna Fáil government
1973 20th 46.2% 68 Fine Gael-Labour Party government
1977 21st 50.6% 84 Fianna Fáil government
1981 22nd 45.3% 77 Fine Gael-Labour Party government
1982 (Feb) 23rd 47.3% 81 Fianna Fáil government
1982 (Nov) 24th 45.2% 75 Fine Gael-Labour Party government
1987 25th 44.2% 81 Fianna Fáil government
1989 26th 44.2% 77 Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats government
1992 27th 39.1% 68 Fianna Fáil-Labour Party[A]
1997 28th 39.3% 77 Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats government
2002 29th 41.5% 81 Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats government
2007 30th 41.6% 77 Fianna Fáil-Green Party-Progressive Democrats government
2011 31st 17.4% 20 Fine Gael-Labour Party government
A In December 1994, Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Democratic Left entered into government without a general election being called.
Of Ireland's eight presidents, six either were in Fianna Fáil governments or nominated by Fianna Fáil. Only Douglas Hyde (1938-1945) and Mary Robinson (1990-1997) had no connection with Fianna Fáil. Hyde, though appointed to Seanad Éireann by de Valera in 1938, was originally a nominee proposed by Fine Gael (but immediately enthusiastically endorsed by Fianna Fáil) while Robinson was a Labour Party nominee who defeated a Fianna Fáil candidate, Brian Lenihan. The current president, Mary McAleese, was a Fianna Fáil nominee at her first election to the presidency but ran uncontested as an independent at the last attempt to become president. The president on election is apolitical.
Ógra Fianna Fáil:
Fianna Fáil have an active youth wing called Ógra Fianna Fáil. They were formed in 1974 and play an active role in party matters, recruiting members and working on election campaigns. The current elected head of Ógra is Joe O'Neill who serves as Leas-Cathaoirleach Ógra. Thomas Byrne TD is the nominated head or Cathaoirleach of Ógra Fianna Fáil, having been appointed by President of Fianna Fáil, Brian Cowen, in 2009.
On the 28 February 2010, Ógra Fianna Fáil published a policy document on Marriage Equality for Same-Sex couples, which went beyond the scope of the Party's Programme for Government which proposed a Civil Partnership scheme only and included proposals in relation to other gay rights issues.
Ógra also plays an important role in the party organisation where it currently has six representatives on the Ard Chomhairle (National Executive).
Entry into Northern Ireland politics:
On 17 September 2007 Fianna Fáil announced that the party would, for the first time, organise in Northern Ireland.
Foreign Minister, Dermot Ahern, is to chair a committee on the matter: "In the period ahead Dermot Ahern will lead efforts to develop that strategy for carrying through this policy, examining timescales and structures. We will act gradually and strategically. We are under no illusions. It will not be easy. It will challenge us all. But I am confident we will succeed,"
The party embarked on its first ever recruitment drive north of the border in September 2007 in northern universities, and established two 'Political Societies', the William Drennan Cumann in Queens University, Belfast, and the Watty Graham Cumann in UU Magee, Derry.
Bertie Ahern announced on 7 December 2007 that Fianna Fáil had been registered in Northern Ireland by the UK Electoral Commission. There has been speculation about an eventual merger with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), formerly the main Irish nationalist party in the Northern Ireland, but now smaller than Sinn Féin. This has been met with a negative reaction with former Deputy Leader of the SDLP, Seamus Mallon, stating he would be opposed to any such merger. The current leader of the SDLP, Margaret Ritchie, has also stated publicly that she would oppose any merger. At the 2010 Irish Labour Party conference she criticized Fianna Fail's record in government and also the National Asset Management Agency On 23 February 2008, it was announced that a former UUP councillor, Colonel Harvey Bicker, had joined FF.
Fianna Fáil has registered with the UK Electoral Commission and is now a recognised party in Northern Ireland. It has not contested any elections in the North nor is their any indication that it would. MLA Gerry McHugh, who had defected from Sinn Fein in 2007 and had joined Fianna Fail, did not contest the Assembly elections and was unsuccessful in gaining a seat in the 2011 local elections.
In European institutions:
In the European Parliament from 1999 to 2009, Fianna Fáil was a leading member of Union for Europe of the Nations, a small national conservative grouping. European political commentators had often noted substantive ideological differences between the party and its colleagues, whose strongly conservative stances had at times prompted domestic criticism of Fianna Fáil. It had previously been a member of the Union for Europe, European Democratic Alliance, and European Progressive Democrats groups.
Party headquarters, over the objections of some MEPs, had made several attempts to sever the party's links to the European right, including an aborted 2004 agreement to join the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR), with whom it already sat in the Council of Europe under the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) banner. On 27 February 2009, Taoiseach Brian Cowen announced that Fianna Fáil proposed to join ELDR and intended to sit with them in the ALDE Group in the European Parliament after the 2009 European elections. The change was made official on 17 April 2009, when FF joined the ELDR.
In October 2009, it was reported that Fianna Fáil had irritated its new Liberal colleagues by failing to vote for the motion on press freedom in Italy (resulting in its defeat by a majority of one in the Parliament) and by trying to scupper their party colleagues' initiative for gay rights. In January 2010, a report by academic experts writing for the votewatch.eu site found that FF "do not seem to toe the political line" of the ALDE group "when it comes to budget and civil liberties" issues.