The issue content of party politics in Ireland: a new perspective on the Irish party system and its development

Christoffer Green-Pedersen*, Conor Little

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The Irish party system has been exceptional both for the weakness of its left-right conflict and for its long-run stability. How then can party competition on policy, and particularly competition between the main parties, be characterised? This study examines the Irish party system from an issue competition perspective, examining the party system agenda and asking whether Irish party competition is marked by differences in issue focus. New data from Irish party manifestos (1981–2020) coded within the framework of the Comparative Agendas Project show that rather than competing by focusing on different issues, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s issue focus is very similar and has moved in parallel over time. Nor is a distinct focus on new issues evident in Sinn Féin’s offering as they have emerged as a major party. Moreover, it finds that ‘new politics’ issues have remained marginal and it examines how this has occurred using the ‘crucial case’ of environmental policy. While differences in issue focus do not help us to distinguish the main parties, the politics of competence continues to have an important role and positional politics may be coming to the fore.

Original languageEnglish
JournalIrish Political Studies
Pages (from-to)35-59
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Ireland
  • Issue competition
  • agenda-setting
  • party system
  • political parties


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