Ireland as a Sovereign State in the 20th Century

The domestic politics of independent Ireland is largely shaped by the two big parties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and their political rivalry. Both took turns in the leadership of the governments. In addition, the Labor Party won v. a. as a political ally of the Fine Gael in influence. Prime Minister presented the Fianna Fáil with Éamon de Valera (1951–54, 1957–59), Sean Lemass (1959–66), John M. Lynch (1966–73, 1977–79), Charles J. Haughey (1979–81, 1982, 1987–92), Albert Reynolds (1992–94), Patrick B. Ahern (from 1997–2008), Brian Cowen (2008–11) and the Fine Gael with John A. Costello (1948-51, 1954-57), Liam T. Cosgrave (1973-77), Garret FitzGerald (1981/82, 1982-87), John Bruton (1994-97), Enda Kenny (2011-17), Leo Varadkar(2017–20), Micheál Martin (2020–).

The office of president until 1990 was held by members of the Fianna Fáil: Douglas Hyde (1938–45), Seán O’Ceallaigh (1945–59), Éamon de Valera (1959–73), Erskine Childers (1973/74), Cearbhall O. ‘Dálaigh (1974-76) and Patrick J. Hillery (1976-90). On November 7, 1990, Mary Robinson (non-party) was elected as the first woman to the office of President (took office on December 3). She was followed on 11.11.1997 by Fianna Fáil nominated non-party Mary McAleese as President (first born Northern Irishwoman in this position; in office until 2011) and Labor member Michael D. Higgins (2011-18, 2018-).

Heads of Government and State of Ireland

Heads of Government and State of the Republic of Ireland

Prime Minister (party *; term of office):

William Thomas Cosgrave (Cumann na nGaedheal, then FG) 1922–32

Eamon de Valera (FF) 1932-38, 1951-54, 1957-59

John Aloysius Costello (FG) 1948-51, 1954-57

Sean Francis Lemass (FF) 1959-66

John Mary (“Jack”) Lynch (FF) 1966–73, 1977–79

Charles James Haughey (FF) 1979-81, 1982, 1987-92

Albert Reynolds (FF) 1992-94

Bartholemew Patrick (Bertie) Ahern (FF) 1997-2008

Brian Cowen (FF) 2008-11

Enda Kenny (FF) since 2011

Leo Varadkar (FG) since 2017


Douglas Hyde (FF) 1938-45

Sean Thomas O’Kelly (FF) 1945-59

Eamon de Valera (FF) 1959-73

Erskine Childers (FF) 1973-74

Cearbhall O’Dálaigh (FF) 1974-76

Patrick John Hillery (FF) 1976-90

Mary Robinson (independent) 1990-97

Mary McAleese (independent) 1997-2011

Michael Daniel Higgins (LP) since 2011

*) FG = Fine Gael; FF = Fianna Fáil, LP = Labor Party.

Ireland joined the UN in 1955 and the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in 1957. The British-Irish free trade agreement of 1965 aimed to catch up with the level of Western European industrialization. With effect from 1.1.1973 Ireland was admitted to the European Community (EC) together with Great Britain). Targeted economic policy support measures made it possible to develop the country, which was still heavily agricultural in the 1960s, into a modern industrial state.

Efforts to reduce the traditionally strong influence of the Catholic Church on state legislation had only modest success until the end of the 20th century. After the population had rejected the elimination of the ban on divorce from the constitution by a two-thirds majority in a referendum in 1986, the Irish narrowly voted in another referendum on November 24, 1995, with a participation of 62% with only 50.2%, to allow civil divorces for the first time. In a referendum on November 25, 1992 on the question of abortion, the majority of the population voted for the right to have abortions carried out abroad. An amendment to the general ban on abortion laid down in the constitution was narrowly rejected (in a new referendum on 6.3.

Even after 1945, according to globalsciencellc, the denominational differences and military conflicts of the 1920s continued to shape relations between Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Ireland in particular did not want to forego the reintegration of Northern Ireland, although the different claims of the two states to this part of the country had in the meantime become less explosive (Northern Ireland conflict). In 1965 the Lemass Government entered into consultations with the Government of Northern Ireland. After the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), founded in 1967, failed in its efforts to improve the social position of Catholics in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s, tensions between Ireland and Northern Ireland increased again. In contrast to government efforts, extremist groups in Northern Ireland, particularly the IRA, sought to use terrorist means to force the unification of British Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. In light of the violent activities of the IRA, the Irish government under Liam T. Cosgrave called 1976 resolved the national emergency and passed a law that also allowed the conviction of terrorists who carried out attacks outside the republic (particularly in Northern Ireland). Prime Minister FitzGerald and the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement on November 15, 1985 in Hillsborough Castle, which for the first time granted the Irish government an advisory role in the Northern Ireland conflict.

On November 28, 1995, the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom agreed to set up an international commission to clarify the disarmament of the Northern Irish underground organizations, at the same time to hold political talks with all parties to the conflict and to start the actual Northern Ireland negotiations in 1996. After the IRA in February 1996 After declaring the end of their ceasefire and returning to terrorism, the Irish government broke ties with Sinn Féin, the political arm of the IRA, away. The government criticized the i.a. Due to the temporarily immobile British attitude, the understanding on the Northern Ireland question made slow progress and sought a new declaration of non-violence by the IRA (issued by the IRA in July 1997). She saw this as a prerequisite for Sinn Féin’s participation in all-party talks. In the parliamentary elections on June 6, 1997, Sinn Féin was able to win a seat in the Dáil Eireann for the first time in 40 years. On 04.10.1998, representatives of the Irish and British Governments and Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants from eight parties, including Sinn Fein, a peace agreement (“Good Friday Agreement”, German Good Friday Agreement), which was confirmed by a referendum of the all-Irish population on May 22nd, 1998, although it contained many compromises. In the Republic of Ireland, 94% of voters voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that would give up Northern Ireland’s right to reintegrate. Shortly after a Northern Irish regional government took office in December 1999, an all-Ireland “North-South Council of Ministers” made up of ministers from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland met for the first time.

In 1999, previously neutral Ireland joined NATO’s “Partnership for Peace” program. In terms of European policy, the positive referendums on June 18, 1992 and May 22, 1998, respectively, resulted in the adoption of the Maastricht Treaty and the Treaty of Amsterdam. With effect from 1.1.1999 Ireland became a member of the Eurozone.

Ireland as a Sovereign State in the 20th Century