Leader of Fianna Fáil

The Leader of Fianna Fáil is the most senior politician within the Fianna Fáil political party in Ireland. Since 26 January 2011, the office has been held by Micheál Martin, following the resignation of Taoiseach Brian Cowen as leader of the party.

Leader of Fianna Fáil
Micheál Martin TD (cropped).jpg
Micheál Martin

since 26 January 2011
Inaugural holderÉamon de Valera
Formation23 March 1926
WebsiteMicheál Martin, TD


The post of Leader of Fianna Fáil was officially created in 1926 when Éamon de Valera founded the party. De Valera had previously been leader of Sinn Féin and took the Anti-Treaty side during the Civil War. The new party essentially became a home for dissatisfied Sinn Féin TDs who had become disillusioned with the party's abstentionist policy from Dáil Éireann and wanted to republicanise the Irish Free State from within.

Like other Irish political parties, most notably Fine Gael, the Leader of Fianna Fáil has the power to dismiss or appoint their Deputy and to dismiss or appoint parliamentary party members to front bench positions.

When Fianna Fáil is in opposition the leader usually acts as the Leader of the Opposition, and chairs the opposition front bench. Concordantly, when the party is in government, the leader would usually become Taoiseach, as well as appointing the cabinet.

All eight leaders of Fianna Fáil have served as head of government. Éamon de Valera became the first, when he was elected President of the Executive Council in 1932. He became Taoiseach with the adoption of the current Constitution in 1937. He remained as leader of Fianna Fáil until 1959, when he retired after serving twenty-one years as head of government and after leading the party to eight general election triumphs. Seán Lemass was the unanimous choice to succeed de Valera as leader of Fianna Fáil and Taoiseach that year. He served seven years in both roles before handing over to Jack Lynch in 1966, following the first leadership election in the history of the party. Lynch served as party leader for thirteen years until 1979, nine of which were spent as Taoiseach. His resignation sparked another leadership election, which saw Charles Haughey emerge as Taoiseach and leader of a deeply divided party. His thirteen-year period in charge saw many heaves against his leadership from within the party, with the final challenge hastening his resignation in 1992.

That year, three candidates expressed an interest in seeking the leadership; however, Albert Reynolds was the overwhelming favourite in the subsequent leadership election and was elected Taoiseach and party leader. After just over two years in office, Reynolds was forced to resign in 1994. His successor was Bertie Ahern who, after being the unopposed candidate for the position of leader, was forced into opposition. Ahern went on to become the most popular leader of Fianna Fáil in the modern era, guiding the party to three successive election triumphs and serving almost eleven consecutive years as Taoiseach. His resignation in 2008 saw Brian Cowen take on the dual roles of Taoiseach and party leader, following an unopposed election.[1] Cowen's tenure was characterised by a downturn in the economy, and he was effectively forced to resign as party leader in 2011 while remaining as Taoiseach. Four candidates put their names forward in the subsequent leadership election, with former Foreign Minister Micheál Martin becoming the eighth leader of the party.[2]


No. Name Portrait Constituency Term of Office Taoiseach[3]
1 Éamon de Valera   Clare 23 March 1926 23 June 1959 W. T. Cosgrave (1922–32)[3]
Éamon de Valera (1932–48)[3]
John A. Costello (1948–51)
Éamon de Valera (1951–54)
John A. Costello (1954–57)
Éamon de Valera (1957–59)
2 Seán Lemass   Dublin South-Central 23 June 1959
(leadership election)
10 November 1966 Seán Lemass (1959–66)
3 Jack Lynch   Cork Borough (1948–69)
Cork City North-West (1969–77)
Cork City (1977–81)
10 November 1966
(leadership election)
7 December 1979 Jack Lynch (1966–73)
Liam Cosgrave (1973–77)
Jack Lynch (1977–79)
4 Charles Haughey   Dublin North-East (1957–77)
Dublin Artane (1977–81)
Dublin North-Central (1981–92)
7 December 1979
(leadership election)
6 February 1992 Charles Haughey (1979–81)
Garret FitzGerald (1981–82)
Charles Haughey (1982)
Garret FitzGerald (1982–87)
Charles Haughey (1987–92)
5 Albert Reynolds   Longford–Westmeath 6 February 1992
(leadership election)
19 November 1994 Albert Reynolds (1992–94)
6 Bertie Ahern   Dublin Central 19 November 1994
(leadership election)
7 May 2008 John Bruton (1994–97)
Bertie Ahern (1997–2008)
7 Brian Cowen   Laois–Offaly 7 May 2008
(leadership election)
22 January 2011 Brian Cowen (2008–11)
8 Micheál Martin   Cork South-Central 26 January 2011
(leadership election)
Enda Kenny (2011–2017)
Leo Varadkar (2017–2020)
Micheál Martin (2020–Incumbent)

Deputy leadersEdit

The Deputy leader of Fianna Fáil is usually a senior politician within Fianna Fáil.

Like other political party leaders, the leader of Fianna Fáil has the power to appoint or dismiss their deputy. The position is not an elected one and is largely honorific.

The office of Tánaiste has been held by senior politicians in the main governing party. Previous Fianna Fáil Deputy leaders, including Brian Cowen and Mary Coughlan, held this post from 2007 to 2011. However, the Deputy leader is essentially a party official and there is no constitutional link between the two roles.

Fianna Fáil did not have a Deputy Leader from the reshuffle in 2012 until the reshuffle in 2018.

Name Portrait Constituency Term of Office Office(s)
Joseph Brennan   Donegal–Leitrim 1973 5 July 1977 Co-ordinator of Party Policy
George Colley Dublin Central 5 July 1977 1982 Tánaiste
Minister for Finance
Minister for the Public Service
Minister for Tourism and Transport
Minister for Energy
Ray MacSharry   Sligo–Leitrim 1982 1983 Tánaiste
Minister for Finance
Brian Lenihan Snr Dublin West 1983 1990 Director of Policy and Planning
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Minister for Defence
John Wilson Cavan 1990 1992 Tánaiste
Minister for the Marine
Minister for the Gaeltacht
Minister for Defence
Bertie Ahern   Dublin Central 1992 1994 Minister for Finance
Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht
Mary O'Rourke   Longford–Westmeath 16 January 1995 28 July 2002 Spokesperson on Enterprise and Employment
Minister for Public Enterprise
Brian Cowen   Laois–Offaly 28 July 2002 7 May 2008 Minister for Foreign Affairs
Minister for Finance
Mary Coughlan   Donegal South-West 7 May 2008 31 January 2011 Tánaiste
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Minister for Education and Skills
Minister for Health
Mary Hanafin   Dún Laoghaire 31 January 2011 15 March 2011 Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation
Spokesperson on the Environment
Brian Lenihan Jnr   Dublin West 15 March 2011 10 June 2011 Spokesperson on Finance
Éamon Ó Cuív   Galway West 4 August 2011 29 February 2012 Spokesperson on Communications, Energy, Natural Resources
Dara Calleary   Mayo 29 March 2018 24 August 2020 Director of Policy Development

Government Chief Whip
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Cowen 'excited but daunted' by new post". RTÉ News. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  2. ^ "Micheál Martin elected as eighth leader of Fianna Fáil". Irish Times. 26 January 2011. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  3. ^ a b c The office of head of government was the President of the Executive Council from 1922 to 1937.