Research / Christianity and democracy
In our era, we are inclined to focus on great personalities, heroes, and anti-heroes of politics. Several political scientists emphasised the personalist trends of current politics; nowadays, symbolically speaking, we tend to vote on politicians, not on parties, and politicians attract attention, not party politics. Still, political parties are not dead, and they produce a more durable output than the politicians' ever-changing rhetoric, namely party programmes. These documents make it possible to find a relatively stable set of policy orientations, values, and norms the political party wishes to represent. Every political party has its values and norms, but in the case of Christian democratic parties, it might be even more crucial to focus on them as the “Christian”, in itself, points to a solid value orientation.
One of Ireland's main Christian democratic parties is the Fine Gael (Tribe of the Gaels), founded in 1933 after the fusion of three parties: Cumann na nGaedheal (Party of the Irish), the National Centre, and the National Guard. Traditionally, Fine Gael is a conservative party, one of the successors of the “pro-treaty parties” and – generally in the form of coalition governments – provides an opposition against its main rival, Fianna Fáil.[i] The past nearly hundred years brought several shifts in policies and value orientations (for instance, concerning abortion, marriage, drugs), resulting in criticism[ii] towards the party. Yet, Fine Gael is still widely labelled as a Christian democratic party. It is a core member of the European People’s Party (EPP) that published its manifesto in 2019, which directly emphasises the representation of Christian democratic values.[iii]
This article includes an analysis of an “old” and a “new” government programme of the Fine Gael. First, the “14-point programme” of the National Coalition Government from 1973, then the Programme for Government: Our Shared Future from 2020, will be examined. This article wishes to detect the similarities and differences of the programmes, for instance, in their length, structure, central values, main issues, and solutions. It is argued that this kind of comparison can lead us to exciting and novel conclusions regarding Christian democratic party politics. Although the article might contain some statements about the presence or lack of traditional Christian democratic values (e.g., personalism, popularism, subsidiarity) in the party programmes, it does not wish to morally evaluate either the changes or the non-changes, since several reasons (political, ethical, economic, etc.) can be behind the stability and the flexibility of these government programmes.
[i] Fine Gael, In: Jan Palmowski (ed.) A Dictionary of Contemporary World History (3 ed.), Oxford University Press, 2008., Accessed through Oxford Reference Website, https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095818737 (2021.07.30.)
[ii] David Quinn: Under Kenny, Fine Gael is neither Christian nor is it democratic, In: Independent.ie Website, 2015.03.12., https://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/david-quinn/under-kenny-fine-gael-is-neither-christian-nor-is-it-democratic-31062816.html (2021.07.30); Greg Daly: Fine Gael ‘no longer Christian Democrats’ – former senator, In: The Irish Catholic Website, 2019.05.16.,
[iii] EPP Manifesto 2019. “Let’s open the next chapter together”, In: EPP Website, https://www.epp.eu/papers/epp-manifesto/ (2021.07.30.)