|Deputy leader||Richard Bruton|
|Founded||3 September 1933|
|Merger of||Cumann na nGaedhael,
National Centre Party,
|Headquarters||51 Upper Mount Street,
|Youth wing||Young Fine Gael|
|International affiliation||Centrist Democrat International|
|European affiliation||European People's Party|
|European Parliament Group||European People's Party|
|Politics of the Republic of Ireland
Fine Gael – The United Ireland Party, more commonly known as Fine Gael (Irish pronunciation: [ˈfʲɪnʲə ˈɡeːl̪ˠ], meaning Family of the Irish or Tribe of the Irish,) is the second largest political party in Ireland in terms of parliamentary seat numbers, the largest in terms of support according to all recent opinion polls, and the largest in terms of local government members and members of the European Parliament. It has the largest representation in terms of local council seats ahead of all other parties in the state. It has a membership of 30,000, and is the largest opposition party in the Oireachtas, the Irish parliament.
Fine Gael was founded in 1933 following the merger of its parent party Cumann na nGaedhael, the National Centre Party and the National Guard, popularly known as the "Blueshirts". Its origins lie in the struggle for Irish independence and the pro-Treaty side in the Irish Civil War, identifying in particular Michael Collins as the founder of the movement.
Modern Fine Gael describes itself as the party of the "progressive centre", with core values focussed on fiscal rectitude, free enterprise and reward, individual rights and responsibilities. It is strongly pro-EU integration and opposed to violent Irish republicanism. Fine Gael is Ireland's only party in the European People's Party (EPP); its MEPs sit with the European People's Party group. The party's youth wing, Young Fine Gael, was formed in 1977 and has approximately four thousand members.
Although Ireland's political spectrum was traditionally divided along Civil War lines, rather than the traditional European left-right spectrum, Fine Gael is described generally as a Christian-democratic party, with a focus on law and order, enterprise and reward, and fiscal rectitude. As the descendent of the pro-Treaty factions in the Irish Civil War, Fine Gael has a strong affinity with Michael Collins and his legacy. He remains a symbol for the party, and the anniversary of his death is commemorated each year in August.
Fine Gael has, since its inception, been a party of fiscal rectitude and minimal government interference in economics, advocating pro-enterprise policies. Newly elected politicians for the party in the Dáil have strongly advocated liberal economic policies. Lucinda Creighton and Leo Varadkar in particular have been seen as strong advocates of a more neo-liberal approach to Ireland's economics woes and Ireland's unemployment problems. Varadkar in particular has been a strong proponent of small, indigenous business, advocating that smaller firms should benefit from the government's recapitalisation program Its finance spokesman Richard Bruton's proposals have been seen as approaching problems from a pro-enterprise point of view. Its fairer budget website suggests that its solutions are "tough but fair". Other solutions conform generally to conservative governments' policies throughout Europe, focusing on cutting numbers in the public sector, while maintaining investment in infrastructure.
Fine Gael's proposals have been criticised mostly by smaller political groupings in Ireland, and by some of the trade unions, who have raised the idea that the party's solutions are more conscious of business interests than the interests of the worker. The SIPTU trade union has stated its opposition to Enda Kenny's assertion that the national wage agreement should be suspended. Kenny's comments have support however and the party attributes its significant rise in polls in 2008 to this. In spite of this perceived opposition to Fine Gael from the left of the Irish political spectrum, the party has never entered into government except with the backing of the Labour Party.
Fine Gael has been traditionally conservative in social matters for most of the twentieth century. This was due to the conservative Christian ethos of Irish society during this time. Possibly because of the Celtic tiger, a decline in Sunday church attendance and the rise of international media and social influences, significant opinion polls suggest that support has grown in Ireland for liberalisation. Fine Gael has adapted to these new social influences and while in government in 1996, it legalised divorce in Ireland after a referendum held on the 24 November in 1995.
The party has not taken an explicit position on abortion, however former party leader Michael Noonan established the party's line in 2001 when he instituted a party whip in the Dáil against a vote on a proposed abortion referendum. He found some opposition from within his own party, from Cork South West TD, PJ Sheehan, and then Dublin South-East TD, Frances Fitzgerald showing that opposition to it was not homogeneous within Fine Gael. The end result saw the party unite after internal debate against the idea of introducing abortion into Ireland.
Under Enda Kenny, the party has pledged its support for the issue of civil unions in Ireland. Though not going as far as to support same sex marriage, the party ran advertisements in GCN (Gay Community News) advertising its commitments to same-sex couples. Support in the republic for same-sex marriage is estimated at roughly 63%, with 37% against. Polls show that numbers supporting same-sex civil unions are much higher, at 84%.
The Irish health system, being administered centrally by the Health Service Executive, is seen to be poor by comparison to other countries in Europe, ranking outside expected levels at 15th. Fine Gael has become the first party in Ireland to break with the system of private health insurance, public medical cards and what it calls the two tiers of the health system and has launched a campaign to see the system reformed. Speaking in favour of the campaign, Fine Gael health spokesman James Reilly stated "Over the last 10 years the health service has become a shambles. We regularly have over 350 people on trolleys in A&E, waiting lists that go on for months, outpatient waiting lists that go on for years and cancelled operations across the country..."
Fine Gael launched its Fair Care campaign and website in April 2009, which states that the health service would be reformed away from a costly ineffective endeavor, into a publicly regulated system where universal health insurance would replace the existing provisions.
This strategy was criticised by Fianna Fáil Minister for Children, Barry Andrews. The spokesperson for family law and children, Alan Shatter TD, robustly defended its proposals as the only means of reducing public expenditure, and providing a service in Ireland more akin to the German, Dutch and Canadian health systems.
The party is a member of the Centrist Democrat International and the European Peoples Party, while it sits with the EPP Group in the European Parliament, where it sits with centrist, conservative and Christian democratic parties. Young Fine Gael is a member of the Youth of the European People's Party (YEPP).
Fine Gael is among the most pro-European integration parties in the Republic of Ireland, having supported the European Constitution, the Lisbon Treaty, and advocating participation in European common defence.. Under Enda Kenny, the party has questioned Irish neutrality, with Kenny claiming that "the truth is, Ireland is not neutral. We are merely unaligned."
The party is not identified particularly with belonging to any particular ideological platform. Some have inferred from its relationship to European counterparts via the EPP that it belongs on the centre-right. Currently, the party conforms generally with European political parties that identify themselves as being Christian-democratic. Most members in the party are happy with the description of the "the progressive or compassionate centre".
At the 2007 general election, Fine Gael gained 20 seats bringing them to a total of 51. The party ran candidates in all 43 constituencies, and had candidates elected in every constituency except Dublin Central, Dublin Mid West, Dublin North West and Kildare South.
Fine Gael won 14 seats in Seanad Éireann following the 2007 election, a loss of one from the previous election in 2002. With the eventual demise of the Progressive Democrats, their leader, Senator Ciarán Cannon joined Fine Gael bringing their representation in the Seanad to 15.
At the 2009 Local elections held on 5 June 2009, Fine Gael won 340 seats, surpassing Fianna Fáil and making Fine Gael the largest party of local government nationally. They gained 47 seats from their 2004 result of 293.
At 2009 European Parliament election held on the same day as the Local elections, which saw a reduction in the number seats from 13 to 12 for Ireland, the party won four seats, retaining the largest number of seats of an Irish party in the European Parliament. This was a loss of one seat from its 2004 result.
While Fine Gael was responsible for the initial nomination of the uncontested, first President of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, a Fine Gael candidate has never won an election to the office of President. The most recent Fine Gael presidential candidate, Mary Banotti, finished second in the 1997 presidential election, with 29.3% of the vote. In 2004, Fine Gael supported the re-election of President Mary McAleese.
The Moriarty Tribunal has sat since 1997 and has investigated the granting of a mobile phone license to Esat Telecom by Michael Lowry when he was Fine GaelMinister for Transport, Energy and Communications in the Rainbow Coalition of the mid-1990's. Michael Lowry resigned from the Cabinet after it was revealed at the McCraken Tribunal that businessman Ben Dunne had paid for a IR£395,000 extension to Mr. Lowry's Tipperary home. The former Fine Gael minister and current independent TD, Michael Lowry currently supports the Fianna Fáil-Green Party government in Dáil Éireann.
Fine Gael concealed a document from the Moriarty Tribunal deliberately. Fine Gael also destroyed its own financial records..
On the 3rd June, 1999, Fine Gael made a voluntary disclosure and payment of £111,000 to the Revenue Commissioners for under-the-counter cash payments to its staff over a nine year period. This figure related to PAYE and PRSI arrears and included a similar figure for payment of interest. In 2003, The Mahon Tribunal, set up to investigate allegations of corruption among Irish politicians, heard that Liam T. Cosgrave had accepted illegal payments from property developers in return for voting to rezone property in Dublin. He resigned from the Fine Gael party when this became known, thereby effectively ending his political career. On the 17th October, 2005, the former senator pleaded guilty at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to making a false or misleading report of a political donation. 
Mayo TD Enda Kenny was elected leader of Fine Gael in a secret ballot of the parliamentary party on 5 June 2002. Kenny defeated Richard Bruton, Phil Hogan and Gay Mitchell in the leadership election, which was triggered by the resignation of Michael Noonan following the 2002 general election. The current deputy-leader of the party is Dublin North Central TD and party Finance spokesperson Richard Bruton. He was preceded as deputy leader by Jim Mitchell.
|Part of the Politics series on|
|W. T. Cosgrave||1934–44||Carlow–Kilkenny|
|Liam Cosgrave||1965–77||Dún Laoghaire|
|Garret FitzGerald||1977–87||Dublin South East|
|Alan Dukes||1987–90||Kildare South|
|Michael Noonan||2001–02||Limerick East|
|Year||Dáil||No. of seats||% of vote|
|Leader of the Opposition,
|Deputy Leader of the Opposition,
|Agriculture, Fisheries and Food||Michael Creed||2007–|
|Arts, Sport and Tourism||Olivia Mitchell||2007–|
|Communications, Energy and Natural Resources||Simon Coveney||2007–|
|Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs||Michael Ring||2007–|
|Education and Science||Brian Hayes||2007–|
|Enterprise, Trade and Employment||Leo Varadkar||2007–|
|Environment, Heritage and Local Government||Phil Hogan||2007–|
|Foreign Affairs||Billy Timmins||2007–|
|Immigration and Integration||Denis Naughten||2007–|
|Justice, Equality and Law Reform||Charles Flanagan||2007–|
|Social and Family Affairs||Olwyn Enright||2007–|
|Transport and Marine||Fergus O'Dowd||2007–|
|Chief Whip||Paul Kehoe||2004–|
|Seanad leader||Frances Fitzgerald||2007–|
Young Fine Gael (YFG) is the youth movement of Fine Gael. It was founded in 1976 by the then leader Garret Fitzgerald. It caters for young people under 30 with an interest in Fine Gael and politics, in cities, towns, parishes and third level colleges throughout Ireland. YFG has 4,000 members nationwide. YFG is led by its national executive consisting of eleven members elected on a regional basis, and on a national panel.
Irish, meaning "family of the Irish".