The 2020 Irish General Election: Everything you need to know

If you’ve been walking around Ireland recently, then you have probably noticed a lot of posters and banners advertising candidates and parties for the upcoming 2020 Irish General Election. If you’re feeling a little confused about everything going on, here is a primer for the upcoming election, where we break down common questions like the stances of each party and why the election is on a Saturday.

When is the election?

The 2020 Irish general election is being held on Saturday, February 8.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met with President Michael D. Higgins, who dissolved the 32nd Dáil and called for a general election.

This day may seem familiar because this is also the day that Ireland is playing Wales in the rugby Six Nations Championship.

Why is it being held on a Saturday?

The 2020 Irish general election is being held on a Saturday for the first time since 1918. Elections are usually held on Thursdays or Fridays. However, this year’s election will be on a Saturday in order to make voting easier for families with children, for students, and for people who need to travel back to their constituencies to vote.

How do Irish elections work?

The Irish election system works a little differently compared to other countries. First off, Irish citizens cast votes for candidates to represent their constituencies instead of voting for a single party leader.

Irish elections are also decided through proportional representation through a single transferable vote.

What this means is that voters choose their first choice of candidate and then rank their other choices. So, their favourite candidate gets 1, their second choice gets 2, and so on down the line. This indicates that the voter allows their vote to go to their second preference if their first is either eliminated or has already been elected with a surplus of votes. This also continues down the line of votes.

Voters have a choice to rank all of the candidates or to just rank a few. Some may even choose to stop after just one.

Who are the political parties in this election?

Here is a simple breakdown of the political parties running in the 2020 Irish general election. 159 out of 160 seats are up for voting.

Here are the seven main political parties that have candidates running for seats in the Dáil:

Fine Gael:

Fine Gael is the party of current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. The origins of the party come from the pro-treaty side of the Irish Civil War. This treaty was the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. It identifies as Ireland’s centre-right, Christian democratic party.

Fine Gael is often represented with the ideologies of liberal conservatism and claims to base decisions on equality of opportunity, enterprise and reward, security, integrity, and hope.

This election, Fine Gael shifted away from their 2016 slogan of “let’s keep the recovery going” to “a future to look forward to”. They have promised to cut taxes by €600 million a year, increase the amount of public servants hired, and to also tackle the housing crisis.

Sinn Fein:

Sinn Fein was founded in 1905, and is the party most associated with the reunification of Ireland. Its party leader is Mary Lou McDonald. It operates under the slogans “Giving workers and families a break” and “Standing up for Irish unity”.

Sinn Fein is often represented with the ideologies of Irish republicanism, democratic socialism, and left-wing nationalism.

The main promise said to be delivered from election is that of the largest programme of public housing building in history in order to tackle the housing crisis. It also said that it would introduce a three year rent freeze.

Fianna Fáil:

Fianna Fáil was also founded around the time of the Irish Civil War, but was aligned as anti-treaty. Its party leader is Micháel Martin. It operates under the slogan of “an Ireland for all”, which was the same slogan used in the 2016 election.

Fianna Fáil is considered to be centre to centre-right and is often associated with the ideology of conservatism.

Fianna Fáil also aligns with the reunification of Ireland as well as a commitment to the principles of European philosophy. It has promised to increase the pension rate by €25 a week for the next five years. It has also proposed plans for increasing child care subsidies.


The Labour Party was founded in 1912. Its party leader is Brendan Howlin. Labour is a centre-left social democrat party. It operates with the slogan “building an equal society”.

The Labour party is most often associated with the ideologies of social democracy, and democratic socialism.

If elected, Labour has committed to building 80,000 affordable and social homes, and also has five non-negotiable proposals on issues such as housing, healthcare, work, children, and climate.

Green Party:

The Green Party was founded in 1981 as the Ecology Party of Ireland, and changed to be known as the Green Party in 1983. It’s party leader is Eamon Ryan, and it operates under the slogans of “Want Green, Vote Green” and “The future belongs to all of us”.

The Green Party mainly focuses on environmentalism. However, it is also dedicated to the lowering of the voting age to 16, the protection of the Irish language, and support for universal healthcare.

This year, Ryan claimed that focus needs to be placed on the decades ahead and not just the next four to five years. He also stated that changes need to be made to the waste, energy, and food systems in their entirety.

Solidarity – People Before Profit:

The Solidarity – People Before Profit Party is a party alliance made between the Solidarity Party and the People Before Profit Party. This party is viewed as left-wing and far left. There is no single party leader as it operates under collective leadership. It is represented by the slogan “Socialism for the 21st century”.

Solidarity – People Before Profit is represented by the ideals of democratic socialism, political radicalism, socialism, and soft Euroskepticism. It is also considered to be anti-establishment.

This year, the party has stated that it is time to break the cycle of leadership from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. It has also claimed that votes should be made that take back from the landlord parties.

Social Democrats:

The Social Democrats is a party that was founded in 2015. The party leaders are Catherine Murphy and Roisin Shortall and it operates with the slogan “Hope for better. Vote for better”.

The Social Democrats have the ideologies of social democracy and the Nordic model. The party prioritises access to universal initiatives like housing and healthcare.

For this year’s election, the party emphasises that people should be put first, and that this is an opportunity to change Ireland’s future.

There is our short rundown of the 2020 Irish general election! Have more questions? Let us know in the comments!

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Eli Romary

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