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

W.T. Cosgrave

1934 - 1944

Richard Mulcahy

1944 - 1959

James Dillon

1959 - 1965

Liam Cosgrave

1965 - 1977

Dr Garret FitzGerald

1977 - 1987

Alan Dukes

1987 - 1990

John Bruton

1990 - 2001

Michael Noonan

2001 - 2002

Enda Kenny

2002 - Present

Key Dates in Fine Gael

1923

Launch of Cumann na nGaedheal.

1929

The Shannon Scheme – one of the largest engineering feats in the world, provided electricity for the state.

1933

Foundation of Fine Gael.