|Political position|| Fiscal: |
Fine Gael (pronounced "Fin-neh Gail") is one of the two major political parties in the Republic of Ireland. Due to the unique circumstances of the Irish political party system, Fine Gael (like its rival party Fíanna Fáil) does not have a distinct liberal or conservative ideology. Rather, it remains centrist, occasionally veering centre-left or centre-right depending on circumstances of who led the party. The party has not enjoyed as much electoral success as Fíanna Fáil, however they have made strong gains in the most recent general election. The last Fine Gael government was under the leadership of John Bruton from 1994 to 1997. Since then the party has served as the Main Opposition in the Dáil (parliament). The party's current leader is Enda Kenny.
The party was borne out of the supporters of the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty which ended the Irish War of Independence and established an Irish Free State. The treaty caused the split of the old Sinn Féin party (not to be confused with the current party of the same name), with the pro-treaty wing establishing a new party, Cumann na nGaedheal (Clan of the Gael). Cumann na nGaedheal was elected to government in 1922, and under the leadership of William T. Cosgrave it played a vital role in reconstructing an island that had been devastated by years of war. Among the Cosgrave government's achievements were successfully establishing a national power grid, successfully and quickly establishing a new national police force, the Garda Síochána (guardians of the peace), and building a new Irish economy - though the Crash of 1929 hindered this ambition.
The party lost the general election of 1932 to Fíanna Fáil, a party established by the anti-treaty branch of the old Sinn Féin. During its years in opposition, Cumann na nGaedheal underwent a number of changes, merging with the Catholic Centre Party and the newly formed National Guard to form the new Fine Gael party in 1934, under the new leadership of Eoin O'Duffy. This was the same decade that fascism experienced a huge growth throughout Europe, and it had been observed that O'Duffy's National Guard had been emulating some superficial fascist elements - most notably the use of uniforms that saw them nicknamed Blueshirts. O'Duffy's experimentation in fascism did not meet well with Cosgrave and other party figures, and he was dismissed from the party. Fine Gael remained a party dedicated to democracy.
The 1940s and 1950s saw the party return to government as components of so-called "Inter Party" coalitions containing other parties such as the Labour Party and the short-lived Clann na Poblachta (Republican Party). It was a Fine Gael Taoiseach, John A. Costello, who formally declared Ireland a republic in 1949.
The party was out of government throughout the 1960s, resuming office briefly under Liam Cosgrave, the son of William Cosgrave, and then again in the 1980s under Garret FitzGerald. FitzGerald's tenure is generally regarded as Fine Gael's greatest moment to date. In this decade the party shifted towards the left, however a long stint in opposition in the late 1990s saw it revert to a more centrist position once more. The general election of 2002 saw one of Fine Gael's worst results in history, however it spent the next five years working hard to reverse this and made significant gains in the 2007 election.
Those whose names are in bold have served as Taoiseach.
Cumann na nGaedheal
- William T. Cosgrave (1922 - 1933)
- Eoin O'Duffy (1933 - 1934)
- William T. Cosgrave (1935 - 1944)
- Richard Mulcahy (1944 - 1959)^
- James Dillon (1959 - 1965)
- Liam Cosgrave (1965 - 1977)
- Garret FitzGerald (1977 - 1987)
- Alan Dukes (1987 - 1990)
- John Bruton (1990 - 2001)
- Michael Noonan (2001 - 2002)
- Enda Kenny (2002 - )
^ Due to an internal disagreement, party leader Richard Mulachy did not serve as Taoiseach when the party headed a coalition government in 1948. John A. Costello served as Taoiseach instead.