Irish General Election 2020: two-and-a-half party system no more?

Luke Field*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Ireland’s General Election in February 2020 broke new ground from the moment it was called: it was the first to take place on a Saturday since the elections that led to the creation of the First Dáil over 100 years before. As in 1918, 2020 saw a decline in public trust of conservative parties, the rise of a more populist and radical force calling itself Sinn Féin, and the sidelining of the Labour Party. Unlike the 1918 election, it failed to produce a definitive result in terms of Irish governance. While there were putative ‘winners and losers’, no party emerged as the ‘obvious’ choice for government. Instead, the electorate distributed seats almost evenly among three parties: Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil, and Fine Gael. Unusually for Ireland, no combination of any two would provide a parliamentary majority. Such is the fragmentation among the remaining seats that negotiating an agreement of three or more parties seems difficult. At time of writing, no government has been formed, though what initially promised to be protracted talks may be accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whatever the eventual outcome, the disintegration of Ireland’s traditional two-and-a-half party system has continued amidst a significant political realignment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-636
Number of pages22
JournalIrish Political Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Political Studies Association of Ireland.

Other keywords

  • elections
  • electoral realignment
  • Irish politics
  • party systems


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