THE LEFT IN THE Republic of Ireland is consistently eclipsed by its conservative and centrist counterparts, at least when the measure used is electoral success. While Fianna Fáil (Soldiers of Destiny, a conservative populist party) and Fine Gael (Family of the Irish, a Christian democratic party) have captured first and second places in the country's last four parliamentary elections (as of 2004), an assortment of leftist forces—led principally by the Labour Party—scramble to constitute a coherent and effective opposition.

Laying claim to only a distant third place in Ireland's most recent (2002) parliamentary election, the Labour Party can nonetheless boast of being the oldest political party in Ireland and the only party that predates the country's independence in 1922. Established in 1912 by William O'Brien, James ...

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