History of Fine Gael
Fine Gael has a history of reforming, progressive government, balancing the need for economic development with ensuring everyone shares the benefits of growth.
Fine Gael has long been the major vehicle of innovative reform and new thinking in the Irish state, with a proud record of achievement, and with 30,000+ members is the largest political party in Ireland today.
Origins of Fine Gael
Fine Gael was founded in 1933 following the amalgamation of a number groups: the pro-treaty Cumann na nGaedheal of W. T. Cosgrave, the Centre Party under Frank MacDermot, and the National Guard. It was also given a secondary name ‘the United Ireland Party’, as a result of which in its early years it was occasionally referred to in newspapers as ‘UIP’.
At its core remained people who had been central to Cumann na nGaedheal and the development of the state after the treaty, many of whom had also been involved in the Easter Rising and the War of Independence.
The Core Founders
W. T. Cosgrave (Party leader 1934-44; President of the Executive Council 1922-32) was third-in-command of the rebels under Easter Proclamation signatory Éamonn Ceannt in the South Dublin Union (now St James’s Hospital). Richard Mulcahy (Party leader 1944-59) was second-in-command to Thomas Ashe in Ashbourne. Sean MacEoin (Fine Gael presidential candidate in 1959 and 1966) was a leader of a flying column in the War of Independence. Cumann na nGaedheal TD Joseph MacBride’s brother, Major John McBride, was executed for his participation in the Rising.
The Party's Achievements
- The declaration of the Republic of Ireland.
- The creation of the Industrial Development Authority.
- Led Ireland into the Council of Europe and the United Nations.
- Proposed as a principle ‘unity by consent’ in North-South relations – something now standard across parties but condemned at the time by all other parties.
- Published the radical Just Society document about creating a just and equitable republic.
- Provided access to contraception without the need for a prescription.
- Abolished the concept of illegitimacy in Irish law.
- Removed the constitutional ban on divorce.
- Created the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).
- Created the Court of Appeal.
- Introduced marriage equality – allowing same-sex couples to marry.
- Fine Gael came to office in 2011 with the country on the verge of bankruptcy. The priority was to fix the economy and get our people back to work. Ireland now has the fastest growing economy in the EU and also has the fastest rate of employment in the EU, with over 179,000 more people working again.
Fine Gael in the European Parliament
Fine Gael is a member of the European People’s Party, a Christian Democratic group that tends to be the largest and most influential group in the European Parliament, with its member parties heading governments across most of the EU. The EPP is the largest and most influential European-level political party of the centre-right, which currently includes 75 member-parties from 40 countries, the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, 10 EU and 6 non-EU heads of state and government, 14 members of the European Commission and the largest Group in the European Parliament.
Leaders of Fine Gael
1934 - 1944
1944 - 1959
1959 - 1965
1965 - 1977
Dr Garret FitzGerald
1977 - 1987
1987 - 1990
1990 - 2001
2001 - 2002
2002 - 2017
2017 - Present
Key Dates in Fine Gael
Launch of Cumann na nGaedheal.
The Shannon Scheme – one of the largest engineering feats in the world, provided electricity for the state.
Foundation of Fine Gael.
Formation of First Inter-Party Government by Fine Gael, Labour, National Labour, Clann na Poblachta, Clann na Talmhan and independents, with Fine Gael TD John A. Costello as Taoiseach.
Declaration of the Republic of Ireland. Foundation of the Industrial Development Authority, critical to the development of the Irish economy, by Fine Gael minister Dan Morrissey.
Formation of Second Inter-Party Government.
Ireland joins the United Nations under Minister for External Affairs Liam Cosgrave.
The Second Interparty Government is defeated in the general election.
Fine Gael launches the Just Society – a policy document written by Declan Costello that committed the party to achieving a just society based on equality.
Fine Gael adopts a policy of Irish "unity by consent". The first party to do so, and highly controversial, it would later become the policy of all parties.
Fine Gael strongly campaigns for Ireland’s membership of the EEC.
Fine Gael and Labour’s National Coalition is formed, with Liam Cosgrave as Taoiseach. The government would go on to introduce equal pay for women, and remove the ban on married women working in the civil service.
Fine Gael takes 12 seats in the EP Elections and joins the EPP.
Sunningdale Agreement signed by taoiseach Liam Cosgrave and British PM Edward Heath, bring in powersharing in the North.
The National Coalition is defeated in the general election. Liam Cosgrave resigns as leader, and is replaced by Dr Garret FitzGerald.
Young Fine Gael founded by Garret FitzGerald.
Fine Gael gains 20 seats in the general election. Formation of FitzGerald’s first government, with Labour under Michael O’Leary.
Government is defeated in a budget vote. The government narrowly loses the general election.
Fine Gael comes within 5 seats of Fianna Fáil in Dáil Éireann, the closest to that point. The formation of FitzGerald’s second government.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement is signed by Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald and British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. It allowed for a consultative role for the Republic in decision-making with regard to Northern Ireland.
Held a referendum to establish divorce. The referendum was not carried.
Peter Barry becomes the first Fine Gael member to become Tánaiste in a Fine Gael minority government, when Labour leaves the coalition.
Tallaght Strategy, adopted by Alan Dukes, which saw the party promise support for policies by the Fianna Fáil government that would prevent national bankruptcy.
John Bruton leads the Rainbow Coalition of Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Government into government.
Signing the Anglo-Irish Framework document by Taoiseach John Bruton and British prime minister John Major.
Referendum proposed by the Rainbow government removes the constitutional ban on divorce.
Fine Gael gain seven seats, but the Rainbow government is defeated.
Supported Good Friday Agreement in the referendum in May.
Fine Gael loses 23 seats in the general election. Michael Noonan resigns as leader. Enda Kenny is elected leader.
The first major party to call for recognition of same-sex relationships.
Fine Gael gains 19 seats.
Fine Gael becomes the biggest party in Dáil Éireann, gaining 25 seats to have a total of 76. A Fine Gael-Labour coalition is formed with Enda Kenny as Taoiseach.
Bringing Ireland successfully through the bailout, with the Troika leaving, handing economic control of its own affairs back to Ireland.
Signing of the Stormont House Agreement between the Irish and British governments, signed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Introduced marriage equality – allowing same-sex couples to marry.
Enda Kenny becomes the first Fine Gael Taoiseach to be re-elected.
Leo Varadkar is elected Leader of Fine Gael and Taoiseach.