Founded by James Connolly and James Larkin in 1912, it is the oldest party in Ireland, and the only one which predates independence. Broadly nationalist, its most significant contribution has been as a coalition-maker, with Fine Gael (in 1948–51, 1954–7, 1973–7, 1981–2, and 1982–7), and most recently with Fianna Fáil (1994–7). Although the party has been grounded in standard European socialist ideals, and retains the general support of the trade unions in Ireland, the pecularities of Irish politics and society have forced the party to abandon or delay such hopes as nationalization of industry. In the 1980s and 1990s it fashioned itself as the party for progressives and youth in Ireland, headed by Dick Spring, who as Deputy Prime Minister (1982–7) and Minister for Foreign Affairs (1993–97), brought the party more closely into debates about the future of Northern Ireland, and relations with Britain. In 1990, the party achieved perhaps its biggest triumph yet, when its candidate, Mary Robinson, was elected President. However, it suffered a heavy election defeat in the 1997 elections, when its representation in the Dáil Éireann was halved. In the 2002 elections, it was unsuccessful in benefiting from the weakness of Fine Gael, whose decline benefited other smaller parties, notably Sinn Féin. In 2006, the party vowed not to support a new Fianna Fáil government after the upcoming 2007 elections, thus tying its destiny to the fortunes to Fine Gael. This backfired, however, resulting in increased support for Fine Gael, but a decline in votes for Labour. The party leaders have been: James Larkin (1912–14); James Connolly (1914–16); Thomas Johnson (1916–27); T. J. O'Connell (1927–32); William Norton (1932–60); Brendan Corish (1960–77); Frank Cluskey (1977–81); Michael O'Leary (1981–2); Dick Spring (1982–97), and Ruairi Quinn (1997–2002), and Pat Rabbitte (2002– ).http://www.labour.ieThe official website of the Irish Labour Party.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).