Healy stands for re-election to the new Tipperary constituency as a non-party candidate in the 2016 Irish general election, and is elected on the seventh count. However, he is entered into the register of the 32nd Dáil as a Workers and Unemployed Action TD once again. He votes for both Gerry Adams and Richard Boyd Barrett for Taoiseach when the 32nd Dáil first convenes on March 10, 2016.
In 1994, Bertie Ahern becomes party leader and he appoints O’Rourke as deputy leader of Fianna Fáil, serving in the position until 2002. Following Ahern’s election as Taoiseach in June 1997, she becomes Minister for Public Enterprise, holding this position until she loses her Dáil seat at the 2002 Irish general election. This follows a vote management strategy from Fianna Fáil head office which restricts her from campaigning in her traditional areas around Kilbeggan, in an attempt to win 2 of the 3 seats in Westmeath. The loss of her Dáil seat is also attributed to her association with and the championing of, the privatisation of Telecom Éireann, which proves a financial disaster for many small investors, due to the share price falling radically, post privatisation. During this term as Minister, she also becomes the subject of public criticism by Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary. Following the loss of her Dáil seat, she is nominated to Seanad Éireann as a Senator by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern where she becomes Leader of the Seanad and leader of Fianna Fáil in the Seanad.
In January 2006, O’Rourke receives the party nomination to stand at the 2007 Irish general election. She narrowly defeats her nearest rival and Dáil election running mate, Kevin “Boxer” Moran of Athlone Town Council, causing a controversy when she thanks her election team for working “like blacks.” She is re-elected to the Dáil at the May 2007 Irish general election, with her highest ever vote.
In November 2008, during a march against the re-introduction of college fees, students from the Athlone Institute of Technology lay a funeral wreath at the door of O’Rourke’s constituency office. The card in the wreath states “Sincere sympathies on the death of free fees. We will remember this.” She describes the act as “heinous.” The wreath is placed there because she is not speaking at a rally against the fees.
In July 2010, O’Rourke concedes that she does not expect the party to be in power after the next general election. On RTÉ Radio‘s Today with Pat Kenny programme, she says the government is taking tough decisions to steer the country through the financial crisis and this will make it easy for the opposition. She says there is a general air of “crossness” within the Fianna Fáil party over their standing in the polls, but nobody is harboring leadership ambitions to challenge Brian Cowen.
In November 2010, O’Rourke says there is then more to unite her party and Fine Gael than to divide them. She points to the common approach of the two parties to Northern Ireland, Europe and the current financial crisis. In an address to the 1916–1921 Club in Dublin Castle, she says that most voters no longer defined themselves in terms of Civil War politics.
O’Rourke’s senior years lead her to often being referred to as the “Mammy of the Dáil.”
O’Rourke contests the 2011 Irish general election, but is defeated on the poll. She had been critical of former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, saying that he should have resigned after his infamous “congested” radio interview. She supports the attack on Cowen by her nephew, former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan Jnr, who says he is “disappointed” by Cowen’s performance and he had to provide the leadership when the Taoiseach did not.
O’Rourke is widowed in January 2001, following the death of her husband, Enda. She has two sons. Aengus O’Rourke, her adopted son, runs for Athlone Town Council in 2009. The other son, Feargal O’Rourke, becomes Managing Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Ireland in 2015 and is considered the “grand architect” of the Double Irish tax system, a major contributor to Ireland’s economic success in attracting U.S. multinationals to Ireland.
Boyd Barrett again contests the Dún Laoghaire constituency at the 2011 Irish general election as part of the United Left Alliance. On the ballot paper, he is named a member of People Before Profit, because the United Left Alliance had not yet been registered as a political party. Following a “nail-biting two days” of counting and recounting votes, he is elected on the 10th count without reaching the quota.
On November 2, 2011, Boyd Barrett leads the United Left Alliance TDs out of the Dáil, in protest against the government’s decision not to hold a debate on the payment of more than €700 million to Anglo Irish Bank bondholders. On December 15, 2011, he helps launch a nationwide campaign against a proposed household charge being brought in as part of the 2012 Irish budget. He is part of an Oireachtas delegation that meets the Bundestag‘s Budgetary and European Affairs committees in Berlin in late January 2012.
Democratic Left is formed after a split in the Workers’ Party of Ireland, which in turn has its origins in the 1970 split in Sinn Féin and, after seven years in existence, it is incorporated into the Labour Party in 1999. Although never formally styled as a communist party, the Workers’ Party has an internal organisation based on democratic centralism, strong links with the Soviet Union, and campaigns for socialist policies. However between 1989 and 1992 the Workers’ Party is beset by a number of problems.
On February 15, 1992, a special conference is held in Dún Laoghaire to reconstitute the party. A motion proposed by Proinsias De Rossa and general secretary Des Geraghty seek to stand down the existing membership, elect an 11-member provisional executive council and make several other significant changes in party structures but it is defeated by nine votes.
After the conference it is clear a split is inevitable. At an Ard Chomhairle meeting held on February 22, 1992 in Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin, six of the party’s TDs resign from the party along with more than half of the Ard Chomhairle. The new breakaway party is provisionally named New Agenda with De Rossa becoming leader of the party.
In the 1997 Irish general election Democratic Left loses two of its six seats, both of its by-election victors, Eric Byrne in Dublin South-Central and Kathleen Lynch in Cork North-Central, being unseated. The party wins 2.5% of the vote. The party also is in significant financial debt because of a lack of access to public funds, due to its size. Between 1998 and 1999 the party enters discussions with the Labour Party which culminates in the parties’ merger in 1999, keeping the name of the larger partner but excluding members in Northern Ireland from organising. This leaves Gerry Cullen, their councillor in Dungannon Borough Council, in a state of limbo, representing a party for whom he can no longer seek election.
The launch of the merged party is in the Pillar Room of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin on January 24, 1999. Labour Party leader Ruairi Quinn remains leader of the unified party, while De Rossa takes up the largely titular position of party president. Only 10% of Democratic Left delegates at the special conference had voted against the merger. De Rossa successfully contests the 1999 European Parliament election in Dublin. He holds his Dáil seat until he stands down at the 2002 Irish general election. He holds his European Parliament seat in the 2004 election and 2009 election.
Kenny turns to politics in 1975 upon the death of his father, Henry Kenny, a long-serving member of the Dáil Éireann, representing Mayo. He wins a comfortable victory in a special election to fill his father’s seat, and at age 24 he is the youngest member of the Dáil. He spends much of his early political career on the backbench, focusing on local issues. In 1994 he is appointed Minister for Tourism and Trade in the “rainbow coalition” government of Fine Gael Taoiseach John Bruton.
With the collapse of Bruton’s coalition in 1997, Kenny loses his portfolio, but his stature rises as the party itself declines. Weeks after the 2002 Irish general election, which sees Fine Gael win just 31 seats, he is elected party leader. He immediately sets to restoring the party’s fortunes, and Fine Gael makes an impressive showing in the 2007 Irish general election, capturing 51 seats.
Fine Gael’s momentum continues to build as Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Brian Cowen, beset with a banking crisis and a soaring national deficit, is obliged to accept a bailout package of more than $100 billion from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. The Green Party withdraws from Cowen’s coalition, and the government collapses, forcing early elections in February 2011. Capitalizing on widespread voter dissatisfaction, Fine Gael wins more than 70 seats, ending 14 years of Fianna Fáil rule, and Kenny begins discussions with the Labour Party about the formation of a coalition government. After more than a week of negotiations, the details of the coalition are settled and Kenny is formally elected Taoiseach by the Dáil on March 9, 2011, by an unprecedented 90 votes.
Kenny oversees a strong rebound by the Irish economy over the next five years, but the perception by many that the recovery has not been shared equally is reflected in the results of the 2016 Irish general election, when the electorate punishes the ruling coalition by ending its majority. In particular, voters appear to be disenchanted by the government’s pledge to end the Universal Social Charge — a graduated tax on all income over €13,000 — despite austerity-mandated cuts to social services. In the event, Fine Gael remains the largest party in the Dáil, but its share of the seats falls from the 76 it ultimately had secured in 2011 to 50, while coalition partner Labour plummets from 37 seats to seven. Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael’s traditional rival for power, which had appeared politically moribund after the last general election, bounces back forcefully to add 24 seats to its 2011 count, reaching a total of 44 deputies.
With no party holding a majority and no quick path to coalition rule evident, a hung parliament ensues. Ten weeks of negotiations follow as Kenny seeks to form a government. Even the unheard of possibility of grand coalition rule with Fianna Fáil is on the table. Finally, in early May, after much policy-related horse trading, an agreement is reached whereby Kenny and Fine Gael will continue to lead the government, supported by independent deputies and with a promise by Fianna Fáil that it will abstain on key votes until 2018. With Fianna Fáil abstaining, Kenny captures 59 votes on May 6, 2016, enough to return to power. In the process he becomes the first Fine Gael Taoiseach to be reelected.
A scandal involving the public smearing of a police whistleblower nearly topples the government in February 2017, and Kenny narrowly survives a vote of confidence, 57 to 52, with Fianna Fáil abstaining. Under pressure from the opposition as well as from members of his own party, Kenny stands down as Fine Gael leader in May 2017. The following month the party chooses Kenny’s Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, to succeed him as leader of Fine Gael. Kenny resigns as Taoiseach on June 13, 2017, and Varadkar is elected Taoiseach the following day.
After Tomás Mac Giolla‘s retirement as President of the Workers’ Party in 1988, Rabbitte is seen as one of those who wants to move the party away from its hard left position. In 1992, he plays a prominent role with Proinsias De Rossa in an attempt to jettison some of the party’s more hard left positions. This eventually splits the Workers’ Party.
In 1994, a new ‘Rainbow Coalition’ government of Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Democratic Left comes to power. Rabbitte is a member of the junior ministerial team, serving as Minister of State to the Government, as well as Minister for State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment with responsibility for Commerce, Science and Technology.
Following the 1997 general election the Rainbow Coalition loses power. The following year sees a merger between the Labour Party and Democratic Left, with Rabbitte participating in the negotiations. In October 2002 he succeeds Ruairi Quinn as the new leader of the Labour Party. Under his leadership the party makes some gains in the local elections of 2004.
The Labour Party agrees to enter a pre-election pact, commonly known as ‘The Mullingar Accord,’ with Fine Gael in an attempt to offer the electorate an alternative coalition government at the 2007 general election. This move causes some tension in the parliamentary party, as some members prefer not to be aligned with any party in advance of an election.
Following the disappointing result in the election for Labour, Rabbitte announces he is stepping down as leader on August 23, 2007. He is succeeded as party leader by Eamon Gilmore. Rabbitte is re-elected on the first count in the 2011 general election. His running mate Eamonn Maloney is also elected. On March 9, 2011, he is appointed as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.