Coalition and Party Policy in Ireland

  • M. J. Laver


The most striking feature of coalition politics in Ireland is the domination of the Irish party system by Fianna Fail. Measured by its share of the popular vote, Fianna Fail is Europe’s second most popular party (Coakley, 1987). In the period 1948–87 it won an average of 46 per cent of the vote and 49 per cent of all seats in the legislature. Only the Swedish Social Democrats got a (very slightly) higher share of the popular vote, while only the British Conservative Party got a higher proportion of the seats. Because of the proportionality of the single transferable vote (STV) electoral system that is used in Ireland, however, the fact that Fianna Fail has got rather less than half of the vote has also meant that it has often got just under half of the seats. When the opposition has been divided, such election results have left the way clear for a Fianna Fail minority government. When two or more of the opposition parties have been able to agree, a single party Fianna Fail government has been replaced by a coalition. Until 1989, therefore, the politics of coalition in Ireland were characterised by the alternation of a single party Fianna Fail government with a coalition of its main opponents (Farrell, 1987; Laver, 1986).


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Copyright information

© M. J. Laver and Ian Budge 1992

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  • M. J. Laver

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