Authoritarian Populism Index.

The Authoritarian Populism Index is developed by Timbro.

Timbro is the leading free market think tank in the Nordic countries. Our mission is to promote and disseminate ideas supporting the principles of free markets, free enterprise, individual liberty and a free society. Timbro was founded in 1978 by Sture Eskilsson and the Swedish Employers’ Association, a precursor to the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.  Since 2003, Timbro is financed by the Swedish Free Enterprise Foundation.


International outreach and translation supported by Friedrich Naumann Foundation and Atlas Network.


Populism Rank: 14


Voter support for radical left in last elections (2020): +9.7%.
Voter support for radical right in last elections (2020): +0.5%.
Populist or authoritarian parties in government (March 2024): none
Number of authoritarian or populist MEP:s (2019): 1/14.

01 Speakers

Ireland is one of the countries where new parties have had most difficulties gaining ground. Since independence in 1920, Irish party politics has been dominated by the two catholic centre-right parties Fienna Fail (FF) and Fine Gael (FG). The Labour Party, one of the more centrist social democratic parties in Europe, has for a long time been the third largest party. The electoral system has favoured eccentric candidates within the major parties but disadvantaged new actors outside the party system. For several decades, the high level of emigration from Ireland helped to reduce the social pressure for change in an essentially very conservative political landscape, limiting the space for newcomers and alternatives even more.

Consequently, no radical right-wing party has ever emerged in Ireland and the contenders on the left wing have had few successes. The Workers Party (WP) is Ireland’s communist party with roots dating back to the early 20th century. For a long time, the communists had very weak voter support, and did not win a seat in parliament until the 1980s. Unusual for a European communist party, it achieved its greatest success towards the end of the decade. In the 1989 EP election, the WP became the fifth largest party with seven per cent of the votes. After the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the party split when a reformist section broke away (eventually to merge with the Labour party) while the orthodox members remained. After the split, the WP has gathered less than one percent of the votes in the elections.


Two older Trotskyist parties from the 1970s have been of some relevance in the 2000s. The Socialist Party (SP) was formed in 1972 by defectors from Labour who called themselves the Militant Tendency. SP remained faithful to the revolutionary methods and ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, and consequently remained small. The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is another Trotskyist party that never gathered even 1% of the votes.


The financial crisis of 2008 motivated severe cuts in welfare spending, something all established parties stood behind. Therefore, attempts were made to create a broad left-wing radical movement in Ireland with inspiration from Spanish Podemos and Greek Syriza, mobilising against the austerity policy. Both the old Trotskyist parties participated and the SP began to use the name “Anti Austerity Alliance”. The SWP had already in 2005 turned into People Before Profit. However, the 2011 election, the first after the financial crisis, was a failure, with much of the blame being placed on dogmatic communists unable to let go of their old-fashioned ideological analysis.


The movement gained renewed vigour in 2014-15 when the government wanted to introduce charges on water. However, a major campaign again paid off poorly on election day, with marginal success in the 2016 election. PBP has since formed an alliance with the Solidarity party and now uses the label eco-socialism for its own ideology. At the same time, the Trotskyist core remains, as their opponents like to point out. The party has a hardline class rhetoric, advocates an Irish Brexit (they are the only party in Ireland with parliamentary representation opposed to EU integration) and has opposed sanctions against Russia.

Mary Lou McDonald, party leader of Sinn Féin.

The February 2020 election was described as an earthquake. For the first time ever, Sinn Féin (SF) gained the most votes (24 percent) in an election. The success was due to the party broadening from a one-sided focus on a united Ireland to more general left-wing politics, a popular party leader in Mary Lou McDonald and also the party benefiting from a focus on housing policy, one of the main issues in Ireland in recent years. SF promised a big investment in rental apartments and rent ceilings. “A New Ireland was born yesterday,” McDonald said after the election. SF continued to do even better in the polls until decline in 2023. Some analysts meant that it was due to a lack of understanding of the migration issue, and the difficulties of uniting social conservative and urban liberal segments within the same party.


Sinn Féin’s classification is debated in the literature. Several political scientists describe the party as left-wing populist with a pronounced we-against-them discourse that pits the people against the elite. But while SF shows several features of classic populism, it has become less anti-establishment over time and is today largely a mainstream party. While obviously a nationalist party, nationalism has been a left-wing position in Ireland, and the party displays few similarities with other nationalist parties in Europe. It has also not engaged in anti-immigration rhetoric.

EP elections

Number of authoritarian or populist MEP:s (2019): 1/14


Ireland has been particularly well represented in the radical left group in the EP. The WP won one seat in 1989 and the SP won one seat in 2009. In 2019, four of Ireland’s 13 seats went to GUE-NGL: one seat for Sinn Fein, two seats for the socialist party Independents 4 Change and one for an independent candidate.

SF summary

Economics: LEFT
Social issues: PROGRESSIVE
Democratic credibility: HIGH