Who’s who in Ireland’s national election

| February 10, 2020

Ireland voted in a national election on Saturday (8 February). Here are the main parties and their leaders, writes Padraic Halpin in Dublin.


In government for nine years, the centre-right party has led a minority administration since 2016. While it would allocate three out of every four euros to increased spending, its income tax cutting plans are nevertheless more generous than any other party. Committed to Ireland’s 12.5% corporate tax rate.

Ireland’s first gay prime minister, Leo Varadkar was chosen as Fine Gael leader in June 2017. The trained doctor and son of an Indian immigrant also became the youngest person to hold the office at the then age of 38. Ireland’s key role in Brexit negotiations raised his profile significantly at an EU level.


The historically centre-right party has won more elections than anyone else and swapped power with Fine Gael since emerging from the opposing sides of Ireland’s 1920s civil war. Favourites to win the most seats this weekend, Fianna Fail would prioritise spending over tax cuts at a ratio of 4:1. Also a strong defender of Ireland’s low corporate tax rate.

Micheal Martin took over as Fianna Fail leader just before it suffered an unprecedented 2011 electoral collapse. The government he was a member of signed an EU/IMF bailout. The 59-year-old former history teacher has held several ministerial posts – including education, health and trade – and is seeking the top job for the third time, something all seven of his party predecessors achieved.


The former political wing of the Irish Republican Army, Sinn Fein were seen as political pariahs by many in Ireland until cementing its place as the third largest party in the aftermath of the financial crisis. It favours a new income tax levy for high earners, a scrapping of property tax, a temporary freeze on resedential rent, a spending drive beyond the finance ministry’s recommended levels but also stands by the corporate tax rate.

Mary Lou McDonald took over as leader in 2017, signalling a generational shift from the 36-year leadership of Gerry Adams, seen by many as the face of the IRA. The 50-year-old graduate of Trinity College Dublin is the most popular leader in opinion polls that also show Sinn Fein in the lead but without enough candidates to capitalize.


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