Micheál Martin TD
Brendan Smith TD
Éamon de Valera
23 March 1926 (1926-03-23)
Fianna Fáil (or Soldiers of Destiny in English) /fᵻˌænə ˈfɔɪl/, ([ˈfʲiən̪ˠə ˈfˠɑːlʲ]) also known as Fianna Fáil - The Republican Party (Irish: Fianna Fáil - An Páirtí Poblachtach), is a conservative political party based in the Republic of Ireland. Fianna Fáil's name is traditionally translated into English as Soldiers of Destiny, although a more literal rendition would be Warriors of Fál ("Fál" being a metonym or figurative name for Ireland).
- Organisation and structure
- Leadership and president
- gra Fianna Fil
- Fianna Fil and Northern Ireland politics
- In European institutions
The party was founded as an Irish republican party on 23 March 1926 after a split in Sinn Féin on the issue of abstentionism.
Historically, Fianna Fáil has been seen as being one of Ireland's two centre-right parties, along with Fine Gael, and is seen as being to the right of Sinn Féin and the Labour Party. It is generally seen as representing a broad range of people from all social classes. Fianna Fáil suffered an enormous drop in support in the 2011 general election after an unpopular Fianna Fáil government's handling of an economic crisis was perceived to have landed the country in recession. However, the party more than doubled its number of seats at the 2016 election, and agreed to support a Fine Gael-led minority government in a confidence and supply arrangement. Fianna Fáil has led coalition governments that included parties of the centre-left (Labour and the Green Party) and of the centre-right (the now-defunct Progressive Democrats). It has been led by Micheál Martin since January 2011.
The party is also organised in Northern Ireland but has yet to contest an election there.
Fianna Fáil was founded by Éamon de Valera. He and a number of other members split from Sinn Féin when a motion he proposed—which called for elected members to be allowed to take their seats in Dáil Éireann if and when the controversial Oath of Allegiance was removed—failed to pass at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in 1926. The party adopted its name on 2 April of the same year. Though his new party, Fianna Fáil, was also opposed to the Treaty settlement, it adopted a different approach of aiming to make the Irish Free State a republic. The Fianna Fáil's platform of economic autarky had appeal among the farmers, working-class people and the poor, whilst alienating more affluent classes.
From the formation of the first Fianna Fáil government on 9 March 1932 until the election of 2011, the party was in power for 61 of 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 the 20th century, has been four years and four months (March 1973 – July 1977). Seven of the party's eight leaders have served as Taoiseach.
Fianna Fáil joined the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) party on 16 April 2009, and the party's Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) sat in the ALDE Group during the 7th European Parliament term from June 2009 to 1 July 2014. The party is an observer affiliate of the Liberal International.
It was the largest party in the Dáil after every general election from the 1932 general election until the 2007 general election. In the 2011 general election it suffered the worst defeat of a sitting government in the history of the Irish state. This loss was described as "historic" in its proportions, and "unthinkable". The party moved from being the largest party to the third-largest party in the Dáil.
Organisation and structure
Fianna Fáil's success was credited by The Irish Times to its local structure. The basic unit was the cumann (branch) which were then grouped into comhairle ceantair (district branch) and a comhairle dáil ceantair (constituency branch) in every constituency. At the party's height, it had 3,000 cumainn, an average of 75 per constituency. The party claimed 55,000 members in 2004, a figure which Eoin O'Malley, a political scientist, considers exaggerated compared to membership figures for other parties.
However, since the early 1990s the cumann structure was weakened. Every cumann was entitled to three votes to selection conventions irrespective of its size; hence, a large number of cumainn became in effect "paper cumainn", the only use of which was to ensure an aspiring or sitting candidate got enough votes. Another problem arose with the emergence of parallel organisations grouped around candidates or elected officials. Supporters and election workers for a particular candidate were loyal to a candidate and not to the party. If the candidate were to leave the party, through either resignation, retirement or defeat at an election, the candidate's supporters would often depart. Although this phenomenon was nothing new (the most famous example being Neil Blaney's "Donegal Mafia") it increased significantly from the early 1990s, particularly in the Dublin Region with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's "Drumcondra mafia" and the groups supporting Tom Kitt and Séamus Brennan in Dublin South that were largely separate from the official party structure.
Since the 2007 election, the party's structure has significantly weakened. This was in part exacerbated by significant infighting between candidates in the run-up to the 2011 general election. The Irish Times estimated that half of its 3,000 cumainn are effectively moribund. This fraction rises in Dublin with the exception of Dublin West, the former seat of both Brian Lenihan, Snr and Brian Lenihan, Jnr.
Fianna Fáil is seen as a typical catch-all party. R. Ken Carty wrote of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that they were 'heterogeneous in their bases of support, relatively undifferentiated in terms of policy or programme, and remarkably stable in their support levels'. Evidence from expert surveys, opinion polls and candidate surveys all fail to identify strong distinctions between the two largest parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Many point to Ireland's civil war politics and feel that the basis for the division is the disagreement about the strategy to achieve a united Ireland. Kevin Byrne and political scientist Eoin O'Malley rejected this and have argued that the differences between the two parties goes much further back in Irish history. They linked the parties to different nationalist traditions (Irish Enlightenment and Gaelic Nationalist) which in turn could be linked to migrations of Anglo-Norman and new English into Ireland and the 'native' Gaelic population.
The party's name and logo incorporates the words 'The Republican Party'. According to Fianna Fáil, "Republican here stands both for the unity of the island and a commitment to the historic principles of European republican philosophy, namely liberty, equality and fraternity."
Leadership 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 as party leader and as Taoiseach:
Ógra Fianna Fáil
Fianna Fáil's youth wing is called Ógra Fianna Fáil. Formed in 1975, it plays an active role in recruiting new members and supporting election campaigns. Ógra also plays an important role in the party organisation where it has five representatives on the Ard Chomhairle (National Executive).
Senator Thomas Byrne was the last nominated head or Cathaoirleach (Chairperson) of Ógra Fianna Fáil, before the youth wing introduced widespread oganisational reform following the heavy electoral defeat suffered by the whole party in 2011.
Fianna Fáil and Northern Ireland politics
On 17 September 2007 Fianna Fáil announced that the party would, for the first time, organise in Northern Ireland.
The then Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern was asked 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, which subsequently became official units of Fianna Fáil's youth wing, attaining full membership and voting rights, and attained official voting delegates at the 2012 Árd Fheis.
Bertie Ahern announced on 7 December 2007 that Fianna Fáil had been registered in Northern Ireland by the UK Electoral Commission. The Party's Ard Fheis in 2009 unanimously passed a motion to organise in Northern Ireland by establishing forums, rather than cumainn, in each of the North's six counties. In December 2009, Fianna Fáil secured its first Northern Assembly MLA when Gerry McHugh, an independent MLA, announced he had joined the party. Mr. McHugh confirmed that although he had joined the party, he would continue to sit as an independent MLA. In June 2010, Fianna Fáil opened its first official office in the North in Crossmaglen, County Armagh. The then Taoiseach Brian Cowen officially opened the office, accompanied by Ministers Éamon Ó Cuív and Dermot Ahern and Deputies Rory O’Hanlon and Margaret Conlon. Discussing the party's slow development towards all-Ireland politics, Mr. Cowen observed: "We have a very open and pragmatic approach. We are a constitutional republican party and we make no secret of the aspirations on which this party was founded. It has always been very clear in our mind what it is we are seeking to achieve, that is to reconcile this country and not being prisoners of our past history. To be part of a generation that will build a new Ireland, an Ireland of which we can all be proud.".
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 former leader of the SDLP, Margaret Ritchie, has also stated publicly that she opposes any merger famously announcing to the Labour Party Conference that such a merger would not happen on her "watch". At the 2010 Irish Labour Party conference she further criticised Fianna Fáil'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 Fianna Fáil.
Fianna Fáil has registered with the UK Electoral Commission and is a recognised party in Northern Ireland. However, it has not contested any elections in Northern Ireland. At the party's 2014 Ard Fheis, a motion was passed without debate to stand candidates for election north of the border for the first time in 2019.
On 13 November 2015 Ógra Fianna Fáil for the first time ever held their National Youth Conference in Northern Ireland, in Newry.
In European institutions
In the European Parliament from 1999 to 2009, Fianna Fáil was a leading member of Union for Europe of the Nations (UEN), a small national-conservative and Eurosceptic parliamentary group. 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. Fianna Fáil MEPs had been an attached to the European Progressive Democrats (1973–1984), European Democratic Alliance (1984–1995), and Union for Europe (1995–1999) groups before the creation of UEN.
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 (ELDR) Party, 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 the ELDR Party and intended to sit with them in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (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 Party.
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.
In the 2014 European elections, Fianna Fáil received 22.3% of first-preference votes but only returned a single MEP, a reduction in representation of two MEPs from the previous term. This was due to a combination of the party's vote further dropping in Dublin and a two candidate strategy in the Midlands North West constituency, which backfired, resulting in sitting MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher losing his seat. On 23 June 2014, returning MEP Brian Crowley announced that he intended to sit with the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) rather than the ALDE group during the upcoming 8th term of the European parliament. The following day on 24 June 2014 Crowley had the Fianna Fáil party whip withdrawn. He has since been re-added to Fianna Fáil's website.