The Irish Free State was established in 1921 and ratified by the British and Irish parliaments in 1922. The Republic of Ireland was declared in 1949.
There have been 28 general elections since the formation of the Irish Free State and, with the exception of the first four, Fianna Fáil has been the largest party in every single election. Fine Gael did not come into existence until 1933 but since that time has been second to Fianna Fáil and on many occasions a very close second leading to coalition governments.
Both parties derive from factions of the Sinn Féin; Fianna Fáil was formed from people who opposed the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty and Fine Gael from people who were broadly pro the treaty.
Fine Gael, under this name, has formed governments after six of those 28 general elections and Fianna Fáil was in power for the rest of the time since 1932. Fine Gael has largely been supported in government by the Labour Party and on three occasions by smaller parties.
The 1992 general election, for example, was a disaster for Fianna Fáil (66 seats out of a possible 166), their worst performance since 1927. Nevertheless the triumphant Labour Party who won a record 33 seats decided to join forces with Fianna Fáil.
However in 1994, following a number of scandals, Labour joined forces with Fine Gael (45 seats) and the Democratic Left (4 seats) in what was called the Rainbow Alliance.
At the same time Bertie Ahern became the leader of Fianna Fáil on 19th November 1994.
In the 1997 general election Fianna Fáil moved back up to 77 seats and with the help of the Progressive Democrats (4 seats) and four independents, formed a government once more. Fine Gael took 54 seats in that election and the Labour Party dropped to 17 seats.
Fianna Fáil increased their number of seats to 81 in the 2002 general election and with the help of the Progressive Democrats (8 seats) formed the government. Fine Gael won 31 seats and Labour won 20 seats.
In 2007 Fianna Fáil dropped back down again to 77 seats in the 166 seat Dáil but formed a government with the Greens (6 seats). Fine Gael took 51 seats and Labour took 20 seats.
On 2nd April 2008 Bertie Ahern announced that he was standing down as Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil and his successor Brian Cowen was elected leader on 9th April, assuming office on 6th May 2008.
Following the economic crisis of 2008/2009 the Irish Government was forced to accept a financial bailout by the EU and IMF in late 2010. Following a series of no confidence votes and more crises Brian Cowen resigned on 22nd January and was replaced by Micheál Martin. Once the Green Party left the government a general election was inevitable.
On 25th February 2011 Fianna Fáil was resoundingly defeated with their worst ever result and Fine Gael in Coalition with the Labour Party formed a new government pledging to renegotiate the EU/IMF bailout.
The Prime Minister in Ireland is known as the Taoiseach. The Dáil Éireann is the lower house of the Irish Parliament, Oireachtas. The upper house or Senate is called the Seanad Éireann.
The President is elected by popular vote for a seven year term and is eligible for a second term.
A bicameral parliament with a Senate and Dáil. The Senate has 60 members, 49 are elected by the universities and from candidates put forward by 5 vocational panels, whilst 11 are nominated by the Prime Minister. Members serve five year terms. The Senate are not elected by popular vote. The Dáil has 158 members all of whom are elected by proportional representation from 40 constituencies and serve for five year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Ireland at 19th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 73 (where 100 is least corrupt).