On Friday, the people of Ireland will take to the voting stations to elect their new government. A lot has changed in Ireland since the last general election in 2011, and the outcome of the 2016 general election is still being widely debated as the parties engage in a whirlwind of last minute campaigning.
Are you Irish living abroad and therefore (rather unfairly) unable to vote? Have you been keeping up with all the Irish election drama as a matter of interest? We want to know which party, if any, would have your vote in Friday’s election.
Readers unfamiliar with the Irish election process should keep in mind that the Irish electoral system differs from that of the US in that Irish citizens cast votes for candidates to represent their constituencies in the Dáil (Irish parliament) instead of voting for a single leader who represents their party.
In Ireland, the party that wins the most Dáil seats gains control (or, sometimes, two parties will agree to govern as a coalition, as Fine Gael and Labour have done for the past five years) and the leader of that party is typically voted into office as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) by the Dáil when it enters session following the election. In some cases, a voter’s favorite representative for their constituency might not be with the party he or she would like to see in power overall, which means they must prioritize which is more important to them as a voter.
Would you want Fine Gael / Labour to remain in power with Enda Kenny at the helm? Or Fianna Fail to make a comeback from their historic loss in 2011? Would you hope to add to Sinn Fein’s strides in popularity? Or would one of the smaller parties or independent candidates get your vote?
Read our brief guide to each of the parties and their positions (or, fine, skip ahead if your mind is already made up) and cast your vote in our poll below. We'd love to hear your reasoning in the comment section, too.
Party profile: Currently in power as the leader in a Fine Gael - Labour coalition, Fine Gael is Ireland’s center-right, Christian Democratic party. Its origins lie with the pro-treaty (the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921) side of the Irish Civil War.
Party leader: Enda Kenny
Platform issues: Job creation (200,000 new jobs by 2020), infrastructure spending to reduce unemployment, an end to the Universal Service Charge tax, establishing a $2.75 billion "rainy day" fund for emergencies; establish a Citizen’s Assembly to tackle the abortion debate.
Slogans: "Your hard work is working” and "Let's keep the recovery going"
Party profile: Labour is Ireland’s center-left, social Democrat party. It was founded in 1912 by Ireland’s famous labor activists James Connolly, James Larkin and William O’Brien.
Party leader: Joan Burton
Platform issues: Job creation, increasing the minimum wage, free primary medical care, holding a referendum on repealing the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution, which bans abortion.
Slogans: "Standing up for working families" and "Standing up for Ireland's future"
Party profile: The Fianna Fáil party also stems back to Irish Civil War (& the Anglo-Irish Treaty), with Fianna Fáil emerging as the anti-treaty, Republican political force. A centrist party, Fianna Fail is seen as slightly more liberal than Fine Gael
Party leader: Micheál Martin
Platform issues: Job creation, homelessness, abolishing Ireland’s controversial water charges, improved services for families.
Slogans: "An Ireland for all" (Éire do Chách)
Party profile: Sinn Fein was founded in 1905 and was the major Irish republican party until Fianna Fail broke away in 1926 over how to unite Ireland, Fianna Fail preferring to work within the existing political structure. Sinn Fein, which is also an active party in Northern Ireland, has worked to diminish its perception as the political arm of the IRA. The party has been increasing in popularity in recent years thanks to its liberal, anti-austerity views.
Party leader: Gerry Adams
Platform issues: An all-island referendum on Irish unity, a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment, abolishing water charges and taxes, increasing healthcare spending to pave the way for universal healthcare.
Slogans: "Better with Sinn Féin" (Níos Fearr le Sinn Féin)
Party profile: Ireland’s green politics party was founded in 1981 as the Ecology Party of Ireland. It formed a coalition government with Fianna Fáil in 2007, but currently has no representatives in the Oireachtas.
Party leader: Eamon Ryan
Platform issues: Binding targets on climate change, $33.3 billion clean energy investment program, investment in infrastructure, increasing the number of refugees allowed into Ireland each year, a referendum to repeal Ireland’s abortion amendment.
Slogans: "Think ahead, act now"
Party profile: One of the newer parties to the scene, Reuna was launched in March of last year as a politically liberal but economically conservative challenger to Ireland’s established political parties.
Party leader: Lucinda Creighton
Platform issues: Budgetary and economic reform, introducing a flat tax of 23%, investing in affordable housing and community nursery schools, introducing a system to monitor and track the success of elected officials.
Slogans: "Rewarding work, rebuilding trust"
Anti-Austerity Alliance – People Before Profit
Party profile: These two far-left, anti-austerity parties joined together in 2015.
Platform issues: Abolishing all taxes introduced during austerity, implementing free universal healthcare, affordable housing via NAMA, calling a referendum to appeal the abortion amendment.
Slogans: "A voice for people power, share the wealth"
Party profile: Also new to the political scene, the Social Democrat party was founded in July 2015 by its three leaders. The center-left party supports the Nordic model for a social democracy.
Party leader: Catherine Murphy, Róisín Shortall and Stephen Donnelly
Platform issues: Abolishing water charges, referendum to repeal the 8th amendment, referendum to repeal the Equal Status Act, which currently allows kids to be refused admission to local schools based on religion, setting up an electoral commission, keeping the tax base at its current level.
Slogans: "Building a better future" and "Reducing the cost of living"
Other parties include Independents 4 Change, Workers and Unemployed Action, Catholic Democrats, Communist Party, Direct Democracy, Fis Nua, Irish Democratic, Workers’ Party, and Independent Alliance.