Political parties of Ireland

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Ireland has a long and turbulent political history. It diverged early from the rest of the UK long before independence, with a focus on Irish nationalism, and unionism (in Ulster and Dublin). In 1921, Ireland was partitioned into Northern Ireland (dominated by Protestant Unionists) and the Irish Free State (later the Republic of Ireland). The Civil War in the 1920s is the origin of the Republic's two main parties Fianna Fáil (pronounced "feeana foyle") and Fine Gael (pronounced "feenuh gael" or "feenuh gwael"). Loyalties to these two parties are often based on family ties and localities and are not obvious to outsiders.

There have been a huge number of other parties. Even Northern Ireland (which has a much smaller population than the Republic) keeps spawning new ones. There are also a number of abstentionist groups and some have been as willing to use physical force and the protest march as the ballot box. The main British parties; the Conservatives (Tories), Labour and Liberal Democrats, historically do not stand in Northern Ireland. Although the Ulster Unionist and Democratic Unionist have had supply and demand deals with the Tories, while the Alliance has fraternal relationship with the Liberal Democrats. Labour never stood in Northern Ireland since an agreement back in 1913, where they would not stand in Ireland and instead support the Irish Labour Party.

A list of Northern Irish parties is provided below. Some of them are cross border.


Note on abbreviations and terminology:

  • MLAs - Members of the Legislative Assembly (of Northern Ireland)
  • Cllrs - Councillors, i.e. elected local government representatives.
  • Lords - unelected members of the House of Lords in London
  • MEPs — Members of the European Parliament
  • MPs - Members of Parliament, which refers to the British House of Commons
  • NI - Northern Ireland
  • ROI - [Republic of] Ireland
  • GFA - Good Friday Agreement, aka the Belfast Agreement. The peace and power-sharing agreement between the different parties of Northern Ireland since 1998.
  • NIP - the Northern Ireland ProtocolWikipedia. The agreement between the British government and the European Union which would allow a frictionless border between North and South. This is done by putting a customs border between the Great Britain and Northern Ireland, making Northern Ireland part of the European Union customs area.
  • TDs — Members of the Dáil ÉireannWikipedia, which is the popular elected chamber of the Irish parliament in Dublin. Come from Teachta Dála, meaning member of the Dáil.

The two main tendencies in Northern Ireland have been:

  • Nationalist - favouring reunification of Ireland into a single country.
  • Unionist - favouring Northern Ireland continuing being part of the United Kingdom.

The more radical nationalists are called Republicans who favour reunification of Ireland, and the more radical unionists, Loyalists. Both have used physical force to obtain their aims.

  • Commons or House of Commons - The elected lower chamber of the British parliament in London.
  • Lords or the House of Lords - The appointed upper chamber of the British parliament in London.
  • Dáil ("doyle") or Dáil Éireann - The elected lower chamber of Irish parliament in Dublin.
  • Senate, Seanad ("shan-ed") or Seanad Éireann - The upper chamber of the Irish parliament in Dublin. It consists of members that been chosen by either a series of representative panels, university students or chosen by the Taoiseach himself/herself.
  • Oireachtas - the Dáil and Senate combined.
  • Bunreacht na hÉireann - the Irish constitution.
  • Taoiseach ("tee-shuckh") - The head of the Irish government as stated under the Bunreacht na hÉireann (Article 13.1), often referred to those outside Ireland as the prime minister.
  • Tánaiste ("ton-ish-ah") - The second in command of the Irish government as stated under the Bunreacht na hÉireann (Article 28.6), often referred to those outside Ireland as the deputy prime minister. S/he is is often the leader of the junior party in the coalition government
  • Stormont - a metonym for the Northern Ireland's devolved Assembly

Major Parties[edit]

Fianna Fáil[edit]

English: Soldiers of Destiny (or of Ireland)
Political position: Christian democracy, Conservatism (centre-right)
Colour: ■ Mid-green
European affiliation: Alliance for Liberals and Democrats in Europe
Leader: Micheál Martin (current Tanaiste)
TDs: 37, Senators: 21, MEPs: 2, Cllrs: 276

FF is famous for deriving much of its support from rural areas, hence its nickname, "the Country & Western Party". Fianna Fáil is the party of Éamon de Valera, the man who dominated Irish politics for decades. Whatever one thinks of "Dev", his ideas shaped the Republic - with him favouring a mainly Catholic, rural country, and with a strangely inconsistent Irish language policy which means it is visible throughout the Republic, but not necessarily practical for its speakers. Historically, FF was the split of the anti Anglo-Irish TreatyWikipedia part of the original Sinn Féin of 1916, which gave Ireland nominal independence in 1922 after the Irish War of Independence.

Although a significant number of its voters and supporters were not Catholic, Catholic values have traditionally informed FF's policies. The consequences of this included abortion being illegal long after the UK (minus Northern Ireland), and cynicism towards them from Northern Irish Protestants. This is less true nowadays, with FF becoming a fairly dull work-a-day European political party.

FF's dominance of the Irish political scene is legendary. Between 1932 and 2011, it was the largest party in the Dáil. It alternates government with Fine Gael, and often enters into coalitions.

Even when it hasn't been in power, many of its core values and policies are shared with Fine Gael (although such loyalties are tribal). Younger people have not always been so convinced and the economic crash and austerity in the 2000s led to scepticism of the FF/FG cabal, and a rise in the Sinn Féin vote. In 2016, the Sinn Féin vote was high enough to scare both of the twin parties into jumping into bed with each other at long last.

Fine Gael[edit]

English: Tribe of the Gael (or Irish)
Political position: Liberal conservatism, Conservatism (centre-right), Catholic influenced policies
Colour: ■ Light-blue
European affiliation: European People's Party
Leader: Leo Varadkar (current Taoiseach)
TDs: 34, Senators: 16, MEPs: 5, Cllrs:: 254

Fine Gael are the other half of Ireland's duopoly, although like FF, the rise of proportional representation has weakened that position. In practice, the two parties are notoriously similar both sharing a heavy Catholic tinge, and indistinguishable and often cynical career politicians. FG is warmer in its relations to the UK and generally more Europhile.

Leo Varadkar is a notable FGer, and besuited machine politician, but the party's past is more colourful. Founded by the IRA hero Michael Collins and his supporters, they supported the treaty which partitioned Ireland, and also set up Ireland's most notable quasi-fascist group, Eoin Ó Dubhthaigh's Blueshirts. Despite that reputation, FG has ranged up and down the political spectrum and often had agreements with the Labour Party.

The economic crash of 2008 affected Ireland particularly badly, and cost FF much of its support. FG and Labour stepped into the breach and didn't fare much better, being forced into harsh economic strictures by the European Union and IMF. Years of economic mismanagement meant out of control banks and the development of a property bubble — the abandoned developments can still be seen in Ireland years later.

When in 2016, the rise of protest votes threatened the duopoly, both FF and FG united on the one thing they hated the most - Sinn Féin. In order to keep out the "Shinners", they finally went into coalition with their near clones. Some said it was a match made in Heaven.

Green Party[edit]

Irish: Comhaontas Glas
Political position: Green politics, Identity politics (centre-left to far-left)
Colour: ■ Light-green
European affiliation: European Green Party
Leader: Eamon Ryan (currently Minister of Transport)
TDs: 12, Senators: 4, MEPs: 2, Cllrs:: 45

Founded in 1981, the Green Party attracts a predictable blend of hippies, vegans, English blow-ins and disaffected students. It is also at the heart of the Esperanto movement in the Republic of Ireland.

Like Green Parties elsewhere, its focus on environmental policies has been diluted, and it has promoted issues such as legal abortion, identity politics etc, as well as some far leftist moonbattery.

Like many organisations that talk up fairness and social justice, it hasn't always practised its own advice. In 2019, and 2020, a number of members left claiming the party had an endemic bullying problem, including the head of the party's youth movement.

Labour Party[edit]

Irish: Páirtí an Lucht Oibre
Political position: Social democracy (centre-left)
Colour: ■ Red
European affiliation: Party of European Socialists
Leader: Ivana Badic
TDs:7, Senators: 4, MEPs:0, Cllrs: 57

For a party with such a long history (founded 1912), the Labour Party has remarkably little traction in Ireland, especially outside the main cities. It has been in coalition government in the past. Major figures include Dick Spring and James Connolly. Traditionally like the British Labour Party, it had support from the affiliated trade unions like Fórsa, Unite and SIPTU, however this is a lot weaker as trade unionism is less significant in most of Ireland.

Labour has made a number of bad political decisions that have given it gains in the short term, but not in the long term. It has thrown its hat in with Fine Gael many times, and Fianna Fáil once as well. Like most junior coalition supporters, this has cost them votes, although it has spent more time in government as a result than anyone but FF. In some senses, Labour has been the third party historically, but the rise of the Greens and resurgence of Sinn Féin has put pay to that, and it is now down to fifth.

In the Irish Civil War during the 1920s, the Labour Party retained some honour by speaking out against heavy handed government reprisals.

Sinn Féin[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Sinn Féin
English: We ourselves
Political position: Democratic socialism, Irish republicanism (centre-left to far-left) - historically all over the place, especially on the issue of the European Union.
Colour: ■ Dark-green
European affiliation: The Left in the European Parliament – GUE/NGL
Leader: Mary-Lou McDonald (current Leader of the Opposition)
TDs: 37, Senators: 4, MEPs: 1, Cllrs: 79

Sinn Féin (aka the "Shinners" to its detractors) is a "quare thing" in Irish politics. It is the only party with major clout in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, and both FF and FG and others split off from it. For years it was mainly seen as an NI based party, but it has gained power in the Republic again recently from all the voters sick of the FF/FG duopoly. In turn, FF & FG (split from the original Shinners before the Irish Civil War) conducted their first ever coalition to keep the modern Shinners out.

Sinn Féin's tactics have been both the ballot box and the armalite rifle. It is often as the political wing of the Provisional IRA (the "provos" - Northern Ireland Unionists often refer to it as "Sinn Féin-IRA" to remind people of that.) Thus they are as associated with scary Northern Irish murals and ripping out toenails with pliers as any political assembly. Several major SF members hold convictions for IRA membership and terrorist offences, so the charge is not without merit.

Since the Good Friday Agreement, SF has lessened its commitment to physical force Republicanism, and has ended up becoming yet another party for political careerists to join.

SF is the largest Republican party in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, advocating the secession of Northern Ireland from the Union and its unification with the Irish Republic. Its political positioning and ideology is considered to be left-wing nationalist, advocating varying forms of welfare and the establishment of an Irish equivalent to the British National Health Service.

Despite Irish nationalism typically being closely associated with Roman Catholicism, the party has no specific links to the Catholic church in Ireland, as officially the church takes a rather dim view of murder, racketeering, torture and so forth. Since 2018 the party has supported abortion rights, up to 12 weeks, which is significantly longer than the Pope's view.[1] Notable figures include current party president Gerry Adams, and Martin McGuinness, a candidate for the 2011 Irish presidential election. Sinn Féin operates a policy of 'abstentionism' regarding the UK parliament in Westminster: it contests parliamentary seats in Northern Ireland, but if a candidate wins, they refuse to take their seat in the House of Commons, as they will not swear the necessary oath of allegiance to the British Crown (see Sinn Féin#Abstentionism). This does not stop them, however, from claiming parliamentary expenses, including having an office provided for their use in Westminster. This of course leaves their constituents without representation in the UK parliament, and costs them the chance to help defeat the government in parliamentary votes.

Social Democrats[edit]

Irish: Na Daonlathaithe Sóisialta
Political position: Social democracy (centre-left)
Colour: ■ Purple
European affiliation: Party of European Socialists
Leader: Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall
TDs: 6, Senators: 0, MEPs:0, Cllrs: 18

A centre left splinter of the Labour Party. As you might expect, the party has fairly standard Social Democratic policies - better housing, better healthcare by overhauling the health service and creating a single-payer scheme, an overfamiliarity with the European Union etc. Its existence frustrates the Labour Party, because not only does it run on many of the things it used to, it also takes their votes. Unlike the Labour Party it has the added advantage of not being contaminated by association with FF & FG duopoly.

It seems that the Irish love setting up parties with "Democrat" in the name – Social Democrats, Progressive Democrats, Christian Democrats, Catholic Democrats, Democratic Left – but the one thing all of these parties have in common other than that one word is that none of them ever seems to have a chance in Hades of getting into power. (The exception is probably the DUP of Northern Ireland.) A lot of these parties are themselves splinters and some of them eventually fall back into some other bigger party. Just to confuse American readers, some of these Democrat Parties are also Republican. (In fact these names have utterly different meanings in Ireland.)

Minor parties[edit]


Operating on both sides of the Border, this is a Sinn Féin splinter after the original party changed its views on traditional Roman Catholic dogma. It centres around its founder Péadar Tóibín, who quit SF after it changed its stance on abortion.[2] It opposes abortion in all cases, even rape.[3] Ironically for a schismatic group, its name means unity or agreement.[4] It is also known for being one of the few Eurosceptic parties in Ireland, but not advocating for withdrawal from the Union altogether.

Human Dignity Alliance[edit]

This is basically the organisational group of Senator Rónán Mullen who would be the resident "monk" of the Irish Senate, if the Catholic Church had a party. Deeply anti-abortion and against same-sex marriage.[5] Mullen had previously campaigned for the right of healthcare workers to refuse to do their job if asked to assist with abortion, and he formed the Human Dignity Alliance in the aftermath of Ireland's legalisation of abortion.[6]

National Party[edit]

If you wonder what an Irish far-right party like National Rally, or the BNP be like, you have The National Party. It has all you classic policies including anti-immigration, anti-abortion, anti-European Union (Irexit) etc. It doesn't care much for gays either. It is centred around it leader Justin Barratt, who used to head the Roman Catholic extremist organisation, Youth DefenceWikipedia.

People Before Profit/Solidarity[edit]

A Trotskyite ginger group. It has more of the feel of an English far-left party than an Irish based party, and shares with them surprisingly little awareness of Ireland's own revolutionary heritage. Its main driving force was the strict austerity rules of some years ago. They do not have paramilitary connections but are certainly adept at shooting themselves in the foot.

An Rabharta Glas[edit]

A more Irish version of the Green Party, which it split off from.

Republican Sinn Féin[edit]

Not to be confused with mainline SF above, RSF is an abstentionist party which refuses to stand for the Dáil Éireann, Northern Ireland Assembly or British parliament; it split from the main SF in 2006 when the latter ended its abstentionist stance in the Republic (big SF is still abstentionist with respect to Westminster).[7] Because of its abstentionist position, it acts more like a pressure group and has paramilitary connections to the splinter group of the the Official IRA of the 1960s, the Continuity IRAWikipedia which was set up in the 1986.

Among its more idiosyncratic policies is Éire Nua, which suggests that a reunited Ireland should be devolved into four provincial legislatures, and the capital moved out of Dublin to reduce the hegemony of that city. This solution is partly seen as helping alleviate concerns from northern Unionists, although whether it would do so in reality is questionable.

In 2016, RSF attended a conference of the Anti-Globalisation Movement of Russia (AGMR), which is considered by many to be a front for Vladimir Putin's Russian government.[8]

The Workers Party & the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP)[edit]

In a series of splits which will strike a resonance with those familiar with Monty Python's Life of Brian, the "Provisional" IRA split from the Irish Republican Army in 1968, in protest at the latter's lack of interest in murdering people. The dormant rump of the Irish Republican Army then became known as the "Official" IRA. The Workers Party arose as the "political wing" of the Official IRA, a counterpart to Sinn Féin, the political wing of the Provisional IRA.

The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) were a further set of (particularly bloodthirsty) paramilitary splitters in the 1970s, and they in their turn had their own obligatory "political wing", the IRSP.

Both the IRSP and Worker's Party tended to devote themselves to radical left-wing ideologies, along the lines of neo-Leninism or neo-Trotskyism. Neither of them ever achieved any degree of electoral success besides a handful of councillors in local government.

With the coming of the 21st century, they appear to have largely shrivelled up and died. In any case, the INLA's numbers diminished greatly due to a murderous feud, which only ended when the last remaining member realised that to continue the killing would be suicide. A new breed of post-Good Friday Agreement dissident splitters have taken to the stage instead, including the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA, with their own inevitable political wings such as the '32 County Sovereignty Committee', whose mission is to non-consensually liberate the people of Ireland from their bipartisan decision not to murder each other, by murdering them.


Another one of a myriad of republican splinter groups, its name meaning "get up". Founded in 2006 as a socialist, secular, nationalist party.[9] It supported Brexit in Northern Ireland in 2016.[10]

Northern Irish parties[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Northern Ireland

Several parties can be found on both sides of the border in Ireland, all of these are republican or nationalist. Sinn Féin is the most notable of the parties organised on an all-Ireland basis. The SDLP were on friendly terms with Labour in the Republic although that changed to Fianna Fáil, and likewise both of the Green Parties co-operate.

Since the partitioning of Ireland and creation of Northern Ireland in 1922, Northern Irish politics has remained doggedly arranged on sectarian lines, with one set of parties being Unionist (and overwhelmingly Protestant), favouring continuation of the Union of Northern Ireland with Great Britain, and the other being Nationalist (and overwhelmingly Roman Catholic) and campaigning for Northern Ireland to leave the UK and join with the Republic of Ireland in a 'United Ireland'.

The mainstream British political parties have generally declined to field candidates in Northern Ireland. On the basis of their standing on a left wing/right wing axis, the Labour party regard the nominally-socialist SDLP as their counterpart, the Conservatives likewise with the Ulster Unionist party, with the Liberals/LibDems paired against the Alliance party. This rather glosses over the Northern Irish parties' sectarian nature, although since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement the parties have been obliged to broaden their scope somewhat from their single-issue sectarian agendas.

Democratic Unionist Party[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Democratic Unionist Party
Official Designation: Unionist (duh!)
Political position: Deep unionist, right-wing, originally anti-GFA but compromise under the St Andrew's Agreement.
Leader: Jeffery Donaldson MP
MPs: 8
Lords: 4
MLAs: 27
Cllrs: 122
DUP, go away!
Anti-choice, anti-gay!
—Protesters in 2017[11]

The Democratic Unionist Party (or DUP) was founded in the 1970s, by Rev Ian Paisley. It was a split from the mainstream Unionist party. The iconoclastic Paisley had already formed his own church denomination, the Free Presbyterian Church, as a split from the Presbyterians. Like his church, the DUP tended to cater for the more fundamentalist, working class flavour of Protestant bigot unionist. However following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the DUP grew to become larger than the Ulster Unionist Party it had split from. It is currently the largest party in the Northern Ireland assembly and the fourth largest in the United Kingdom Parliament. Contrary to Sinn Féin on not only constitutional matters, the DUP is viewed as a socially conservative right wing party, with strong links to Protestant churches. It is softly eurosceptic, has had several prolific members come out against homosexuality, and, most uncommonly in the United Kingdom, has also advocated the promotion of creationism in Northern Irish classrooms. Notable figures include founder Ian Paisley, current leader Peter Robinson, and his wife Iris Robinson. Iris was enveloped in a scandal in 2011 when it transpired she had been embroiled in a sexual relationship with a teenage orphan, whom she had known since he was nine, his late father being a family friend who had entrusted the boy to her care. She had also loaned five-figure sums of money to this lover, in business deals of dubious proprietary.[citation needed] Meanwhile she had been outspoken in her condemnation of homosexuality, referring her gay constituents for psychiatric treatment, and declaring in a House of Commons select committee that sodomy was a worse crime than paedophilia. Unsurprisingly, she has seen be forced to resign her Westminster seat and is said to be currently undergoing psychiatric care.[citation needed] DUP "environment" minister Sammy Wilson is a trenchant climate denialist.

Sinn Féin[edit]

Sinn Féin anti-Brexit protest.
Official Designation: Nationalist (duh!)
Colour: ■ Dark-green
Political position: Deep republicanism, left-wing to far-left, pro-GFA
Leader: Michelle O'Neill, who is also the current First Minister designate. Technically, she isn't the leader of Sinn Féin as Mary Lou is the leader of Sinn Féin both North and South.
MPs 7 (abstentionist)
Lords: NA
MLAs: 27
Cllrs: 112

See main article above.

Ulster Unionist Party[edit]

Official Designation: Unionist (duh!)
Colour: ■ Blue
Political position: Moderate to soft unionist, centre-right, pro-GFA
Leader: Doug Beattie
MPs: 0
Lords: 2
MLAs: 10
Cllrs: 72

Formerly the largest unionist party in Northern Ireland, the UUP were overtaken by their erstwhile splitters the DUP in 2003, and devastated in the 2005 election. They have been in steady decline ever since. They are seen as more moderate than the DUP. However, they would not be considered 'real unionists' by quite a large portion of DUP voters. Much of this perception stems from the party's support for the Good Friday Agreement, which the DUP opposed to at the time, seeing it as a concession to Irish republican terrorism.

The pre-split Unionist party was the dominant instrument of government in Northern Ireland following the partition of the island of Ireland in 1922. Although Catholic voters constituted well over 40% of the Northern Ireland electorate, Unionists used gerrymandering tactics to ensure they held the overwhelming number of seats in the Northern Irish parliament in Stormont. This, combined with institutionalised state discrimination against Catholics in housing, jobs and other areas let to increasing civil unrest as the decades went by, culminating in the eruption of 'The Troubles' in 1968. Unionist rule of Northern Ireland was suspended by the UK Government in 1972, who imposed direct rule from Westminster. A notable defector to the Ulster Unionist party was Enoch Powell, who had been expelled from the UK Conservative party in 1968 over his notorious "Rivers of Blood" speech against immigration. Powell held a Westminster seat in South Down for the UUP until his death.

Social Democratic and Labour Party[edit]

Official Designation: Nationalist
Political position: Soft nationalist, centre to centre-left, pro-GFA
Leader: Colum Eastwood
MPs: 2
Lords: 0/NA
MLAs: 12
Cllrs: 58

The SDLP were formerly the largest Irish nationalist party in Northern Ireland and, along with the UUP, were instrumental in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. They were overtaken by Sinn Féin in the 2003 Assembly Election, though they had a brief stint as the once again second largest party following the devastation of the UUP in the 2005 election and continued abstentionism by Sinn Féin. Nevertheless, they have been declining since then and continually place fourth in the Assembly Elections. From 2019 to 2022, it has been in a fraternal relationship with centrist Fianna Fáil, although one of its notable MPs of SDLP is Claire Hanna who known for her social democratic views.

Unlike most Northern Irish parties, the SDLP has made a serious effort to be non-sectarian since the beginning, although its vote is traditionally with the Catholic middle class. Its founders came from both communities.

Alliance Party[edit]

Official Designation: Other
Political position: Soft unionist, liberal, pro GFA and Protocol
Leader: Naomi Long, who is also the Minister for Justice
MPs 1
Lords: 0
MLAs: 8
Cllrs: 53

Like the SDLP, the Alliance Party has attempted to push non-sectarian politics in NI and paid for it at the ballot box. They have a reputation for being the dull party in Northern Irish politics, and given the violent and bigoted nature of some other parties there, that is not necessarily a bad thing. The Alliance Party isn't linked to paramilitaries and scary murals, but is seen as being a little too middle class for its own good.

Formerly considered a party of moderate unionism, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland have come to focus on non-sectarianism and pragmatic liberal policies, often focussing on concerns of social equality and the environment. They have become a significant political force in the Belfast area and have been steadily rising. They have had a significant effect on the diminishing support for the UUP in Belfast. Now due to the failing of the DUP, it getting support from the moderate Unionist vote.

Traditional Unionist Voice[edit]

Official Designation: Unionist (duh!)
Political position: Deep unionism, right-wing to populist right-wing, anti-GFA
Leader: Jim Allister
MPs 0
Lords 0
MLAs: 1
Cllrs: 6

In the Northern Irish tradition of outflanking your own side, the TUV split from the DUP because they thought the DUP were too moderate, making them in relation to the DUP what the DUP were to the UUP. Aside from their deep hatred of Sinn Féin, they're chiefly notable for their support for Torrens Knight, a former loyalist terrorist who was jailed for beating up two women in a bar. Nice people.[12]

Green Party Northern Ireland[edit]

Official Designation: Other
Political position: Green politics, Non-sectarianism
Leader: Claire Bailey
MPs 0
Lords: 0
MLAs: 2
Cllrs: 8

The GPNI does everything one would expect it to on the environmental front. It is also very vocal about issues regarding sexuality and gender identity. The colour "green" has connotations of Irish republicanism, but that does not seem to have won or lost them many votes.

Irish Republican Socialist Party[edit]

Official designation: Nationalist (of course)
Political position: Deep republican, far-left, anti-capitalist, Anti-GFA
Chairperson: Martin McMonagle
MPs No (abstentionist)
Lords Definitely no!
MLAs: No
Cllrs: No

See above. The IRSP is an abstentionist party so stays out of elections. It is connected with INLA (New IRA) paramilitaries in working class areas and has had turf wars with the more physical wing of Sinn Féin.

Progressive Unionist Party[edit]

Official designation: Unionist (obviously)
Political position: Deep unionist, left-wing, Pro-GFA
Leader: Billy Hutchinson
MPs: 0
Lords: 0
MLAs: 0
Cllrs: 3

Ever wonder why there doesn’t seem to be a left-wing unionist party? Well that is what the PUP is. Founded by as a spilt of the Northern Ireland Labour Party by charismatic Hugh Smyth who later became Lord Mayor of Belfast, and later continued by the David Ervine, and built its support in the working-class estates of Belfast of Shankill, Cregagh and Crumlin.

Ever since the death of Ervine and internal struggles of the loyalist paramilitaries groups such as the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Red Hand Commando, it has since then it has become a shell of its former self. Plus, it still linked to the banned paramilitary Loyalist Volunteer ForceWikipedia has made it a pariah among other politicians and most of its traditional supporters now vote for the DUP and the TUV.


English: Liberation
Official designation: Nationalist (of course)
Political position: Deep republican, far-left, anti-capitalist, Anti-GFA
Chairperson: Brian Kenna
MPs No (abstentionist)
Lords Definitely no!
MLAs: No
Cllrs: No

One of the latest parties on the scene is Saoradh, set up in 2016 from the working-class estate of Creggan in Derry, as even a deeper republican alternative to Sinn Féin. The party is based on the revolutionary and Marxist background of Sinn Féin of the 1960s and 1970s, and indirectly linked to the banned republican paramilitary group the New IRA which is spilt off the [Continuity] IRA. Support for Saoradh has drifted in last couple years, since the murder of the journalist Lyra McKeeWikipedia by the New IRA and lack of condemnation by the party.

Republican parties in the North[edit]

In the last decade both establishment parties from the South; Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, have created operation up the North, especially setting up university branches in Northern Ireland's two universities, Queen's and Ulster. [13] They says the main reason for this is the growing middle-class vote among Catholics, however there are questions whether it could be due to funding.

Defunct political parties[edit]

Ireland is a graveyard of political parties with splits being a regular occurrence. Because it is such a small country, it is easy to set up parties... And conversely, the withdrawal of a handful of people can destroy a minor Irish party. In Northern Ireland, this applies even more since it is much smaller.

A common tactic is outflanking, i.e. to be more radical in nationalism/republicanism, unionism, the labour movement or whatever. The biggest casualties of outflanking include the UUP, SDLP and the IPP which was killed off by it (see below)

  • Business and Professional Group - a remarkably dull name compared to those of many Irish parties, the BPG succeeded in getting some TDs in the 1920s.
  • Democratic Left - 1990s party later swallowed up by Labour.
  • Libertas - centred around Declan Ganley, originally from splitters of the "No 2 Nice" campaign against the Treaty of Nice, they support Ireland's exit from the European Union.
  • Natural Law Party, yes Ireland had them too. They suggested yogic flying would stop the Troubles.
  • Northern Ireland Labour Party - a moderately unionist left wing party which existed until the 1980s. It was heavily connected with trade unionism and had mostly Protestant support.

Irish Parliamentary Party[edit]

The Irish Parliamentary Party (1873-1918) was one of the earliest nationalist parties. The party of Charles Stewart Parnell and John Redmond and very successful in its time. It suffered two notable setbacks, namely Parnell's adultery scandal and Redmond's support of Irish involvement in WWI which went down like a cup of cold sick in more radical circles of the party.

It insisted on Home Rule for decades, and was knocked back by Britain despite its dominance of most of pre-partion Ireland. After the Easter Rising in 1916 it became almost completely irrelevant, and folded a year or two later. Its more radical wings split off and became the ancestors of several of today's parties.

It did have some major influences - namely the disestablishment of the (Anglican) Church of Ireland, some land reform, and Catholic emancipation in the UK. It also kept the Irish Question alive in the British Parliament.

Communist Party of Ireland (Marxist–Leninist)[edit]

A reminder that Republicans and Loyalists were not the only splitters in town. This group was founded in the 1960s but didn't like the USSR or Yugoslavia and from the late 1970s hated Red China when it stopped murdering people in such large numbers.

Instead they followed Hoxhaism, the state doctrine of Albania, famously known for its hermitlike status and paranoia even in the Cold War. When Albania's dictatorship fell, this group initiated contact with North Korea instead, but it turned out the North Koreans had no money and couldn't be bothered supporting foreign movements. Because both these states were excellent models for Ireland, obviously.

Their main object of hatred was not capitalism, but the Communist Party of Ireland of course.

National Socialist Irish Workers Party[edit]

Ireland's Nazi party was set up in the 1960s in Irishtown, a suburb of Dublin and did a good sideline in selling trinkets to parts of Europe where National Socialist symbols were banned... before the Irish establishment decided to ban that in the late eighties.

In 1979, party leader Terence Allan-Byrne had a swastika carved into his chest; he refused to allow an Indian doctor treat it and was referred to another hospital, where a different doctor refused to treat him and ‘remarked that the wounds he was receiving were costing the tax-payers a lot of money’.

Ulster Independence Party[edit]

Many so-called Loyalists have an uneasy relationship with the British State and for a handful this led to the idea of Northern Ireland being independent of both Ireland and the United Kingdom. Despite the name, three of the nine counties of region of Ulster, Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan are part of the Republic. The separate but close, Ulster Movement for Self-Determination wanted to reincorporate them, despite the fact that at the time of partition they have more Catholics then Protestants.

Despite having an unusual selling point, the party and the wider Northern Irish independence movement has never gained serious traction. Mainstream unionists are a little too comfortable with the financial arrangements with the UK. However the group did maintain an intense hatred of Roman Catholics, and that was its main appeal to some people.


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