The Labour Party (Páirtí an Lucht Oibre) is a democratic socialist and social democratic political party in the Republic of Ireland. Founded by James Connolly in 1912 as the political wing of the Irish Trade Union Congress, it claims to be the country's oldest continuous political party. It holds 20 of the 166 seats in Dáil Éireann and is the third-largest political party in the State. In the 2007 general election, it gained 10.1% of the popular vote. The Labour Party has served in government for a total of nineteen years, six times in coalition either with Fine Gael alone or with Fine Gael and other smaller parties, and once with Fianna Fáil. Currently in opposition, it is the second most successful party of all the parties in Dáil Éireann in terms of time served in government (one year more than Fine Gael). The current party leader is Eamon Gilmore. He was elected in October 2007 alongside, Joan Burton, deputy leader.
The Irish Citizens Army(ICA) formed during the 1913 Lockout, was informally the military wing of the Labour Movement, the ICA took part in the 1916 Rising. The ICA was revived during Peadar O'Donnell's Republican Congress but after the 1935 split most ICA members joined the Irish Labour Party.
The British Labour Party had previously organised in Ireland but in 1913 the Labour NEC agreed that the Irish Labour Party would have organising rights over the entirety of Ireland. A group of trade unionists in Belfast objected and the Belfast Labour Party, which later became the nucleus of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, remained outside the new party.
In 1923 Larkin returned to Ireland. He hoped to take over the leadership role he had left, but O'Brien resisted him. Larkin sided with the more radical elements of the party and in September that year he established the Irish Worker League.
In 1932 the Labour Party supported Éamon de Valera's first Fianna Fáil government, which had proposed a programme of social reform with which the party was in sympathy. In the 1940s it looked for a while as if the Labour Party would replace Fine Gael as the main opposition party. In the 1943 general election the party won 17 seats, its best result since 1927.
The Larkin-O'Brien feud still continued, and worsened over time. In the 1940s the hatred caused a split in the Labour party and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. In 1944 O'Brien left with 6 TDs and founded the National Labour Party. James Everett was the leader of National Labour Party. O'Brien also withdrew the ITGWU from the Irish Trade Unions Congress and set up his own congress. The split damaged the Labour movement in the 1944 general election. It was only after Larkin's death in 1947 that an attempt at unity could be made.
After th 1948 election National Labour had 5 TD's - James Everett, Dan Spring, James Pattison, James Hickey and John O'Leary. National Labour and Labour(with 14 TDs) both entered the first inter-party government, National Labour Leader became Minister of Posts and Telegraphs, in 1950 they two Labour parties merged.
From 1948–1951 and from 1954–1957 the Labour Party was the second-largest partner in the two inter-party governments. William Norton, the Labour Party leader, became Tánaiste and Minister for Social Welfare on both occasions. See First Inter-Party Government and Second Inter-Party Government.
During this period the party stood for elections in Northern Ireland, after a split in the Northern Ireland Labour Party when Paddy Devlin helped re-establish the party in Belfast, the party did win seats in the Westminster Parliament (Jack BeattieMP for West Belfast 1951) and Stormont Parliament in the Belfast area as well as in district council elections(Falls, Belfast City Council by election 1956, Gerry Fitt 1958 Council Elections). However the party is not known to have contested an election in the region since Gerry Fitt, then the party's sole Stormont MP, left the party to form the Republican Labour Party in 1964.
The 1980s saw fierce disagreements between left and right wings of the party. The more radical elements, led by figures including Emmet Stagg, opposed the idea of going into coalition government with either of the major centre-right parties. At the 1989 Labour Party conference in Tralee a number of socialist and Marxist activists, organised around the Militant newspaper, were expelled. These expulsions continued during the early 1990s and those expelled, including Joe Higgins, went on to found the Socialist Party.
These rows ended with the defeat of the anti-coalition left. In the period since, there have been further discussions about coalitions in the party but these disagreements have primarily been over the merits of different coalition partners rather than over the principle of coalition. Related arguments have taken place from time to time over the wisdom of entering into pre-election voting pacts with other parties. Indeed former radicals like Stagg now themselves support coalition.
At the 1992 general election the Labour Party won a record 19.3% of the first-preference votes, more than twice its share in the 1989 general election. The party's representation in the Dáil doubled to 33 seats and, after a period of negotiations, the Labour Party formed a coalition with Fianna Fáil, taking office in January 1993 as the 23rd government of Ireland. Fianna Fáil leader Albert Reynolds remained as Taoiseach, and Labour Party leader Dick Spring became Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs.
After less than two years the government fell in a controversy over the appointment of Attorney-General, Harry Whelehan, as president of the High Court. The parliamentary arithmetic had changed as a result of Fianna Fáil's loss of two seats in by-elections in June, where the Labour Party itself had performed disastrously. On the pretext that the Labour Party voters were not happy with involvement with Fianna Fáil, Dick Spring withdrew his support for Reynolds as Taoiseach. The Labour Party negotiated a new coalition, the first time in Irish political history that one coalition replaced another without a general election. Between 1994 and 1997 Fine Gael, the Labour Party, and Democratic Left governed in the Rainbow Coalition. Dick Spring of the Labour Party became Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs again.
In 1997 Ruairi Quinn became the new Labour Party leader. Negotiations started almost immediately and in 1999 the Labour Party merged with Democratic Left, keeping the name of the larger partner, members of Democratic Left in the North of Ireland were invited to join the Irish Labour Party but not permitted to organise.. This left Gerry Cullen their councilor in Dungannon Borough Council in a state of limbo elected for a party he could no longer seek election for.
The launch in the Pillar Room of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin.
Quinn resigned as leader in 2002 following the poor results for the Labour Party in the 2002 general election. Former Democratic Left TD Pat Rabbitte became the new leader, the first to be elected directly by the members of the party.
In the 2004 elections to the European Parliament, Proinsias De Rossa retained his seat for the Labour Party in the Dublin constituency. This was the Labour Party's only success in the election. In the local elections held the same day, the Labour Party won over 100 county council seats, the first time ever in its history, and emerged as the largest party in Dublin City and Galway city.
Rabbitte's strategy was favoured by most TD's, notably Deputy Leader Liz McManus, Eamon Gilmore, who had proposed a different electoral strategy in the 2002 leadership election, and former opponent of coalition Emmet Stagg. Opposition to the strategy was identified with Brendan Howlin, who was perceived to be in favour of coalition with Fianna Fáil, and Kathleen Lynch and Tommy Broughan, who opposed the boost that would be given to Fine Gael in such a strategy. Outside the PLP, organised opposition to the pact came from Labour Youth and the ATGWU, who opposed the pact on political and tactical grounds. Nevertheless, the strategy proposed by Rabbitte was supported by approximately 80% of members.
In the 2007 general election the Labour Party failed to increase its seat total and had a net loss of 1 seat, returning with 20 seats. Fine Gael, the Labour Party, the Green Party and independents did not have enough seats to form a government. Pat Rabbitte resisted calls to enter negotiations with Fianna Fáil on forming a government. Eventually, Fianna Fáil entered government with the Progressive Democrats and the Green Party with the support of independents.
On 23 August 2007, Pat Rabbitte resigned as Labour Party leader. He stated that he took responsibility for the outcome of the recent general election, in which his party failed to gain new seats and failed to replace the outgoing government.
On 6 September 2007, Eamon Gilmore was unanimously elected leader of the Labour Party, being the only nominee after Pat Rabbitte's resignation.
Socialist Societies Affiliated to the Party: