Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 10, issue 4

Michael Gallagher and Michael Marsh, "Party Membership in Ireland: The Members of Fine Gael," Party Politics, 10 (July 2004), 407-425.

First Paragraph:
The value of studying party members has been outlined in the introductory article to this volume, and the lack of previous research has been highlighted. The findings reported in this article come from the first full-scale study of the membership of an Irish political party.1 A number of factors, not least resource constraints, led the current research to concentrate on one party, Fine Gael, which, unlike some other parties, maintains a national membership register that could be used as the sampling frame (see Appendix for details of sampling).

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Year of joining Fine Gael
Table 2. Background characteristics of Fine Gael members and voters
Table 3. Levels of activism within Fine Gael
Table 4. Personal links between members and politicians

Last Paragraph:
The survey was designed to throw some light on the nature of the Irish party system and, in particular, what differentiates the two main parties. Members do not see any difference between the parties in left-right terms, and indeed policy generally does not loom large in members' responses on this issue; quite a number of members say that in their opinion there are no policy differences between the two parties. The main difference, then, is one not of policy but of ethos. Fine Gael, in the eyes of its members, is a party of honesty and integrity that puts the country first and sticks to its principles, while Fianna Fáil is a party that is tainted by corruption, has no guiding philosophy other than its own self-interest and is entirely opportunistic in its behaviour. The perceptions of Fianna Fáil members on this question must await further research.