Fine Gael (pronounced FEE-na Gale) are indeed Ireland's second-largest party, and are now led by Michael Noonan. The party in its present form was founded by the merger of Cumann na nGaedheal, the National Centre Party and the National Guard in 1933. Cumann na nGaedheal was the party of those who supported the Free State in the Civil War, and even today Fine Gael are associated with the pro-Treaty side in this conflict.
Fine Gael have been in government several times since their foundation, although always in coalition with other parties, such as the Labour Party. Fine Gael taoisigh (Prime Ministers) include John A. Costello, Liam Cosgrave, Garret FitzGerald and John Bruton. In policy terms, they occupy the centre ground along with their main rival, Fianna Fáil, and the main distinction between the two movements is historical rather than political. In general, however, they are a little less "green" when it comes to Northern Ireland, a little less likely to be caught with their fingers in the till, and perhaps a smidgen more concerned with social justice (the party was revamped in the 1960s on a platform of "Creating the Just Society").
The party has an embarrassing historical skeleton in its closet, however, in the National Guard, one of the organisations which merged to found it in 1933. Between 1932 and 1933, the National Guard had been known as the Army Comrades Association, or the Blueshirts. Debate continues to this day as to whether this organisation could be termed "fascist", but it certainly mirrored the rise of fascist groups around Europe. A quasi-militaristic movement with uniforms styled after Mussolini's blackshirts, the Blueshirts were rabidly anti-Communist and many members went to fight for Franco in the Spanish Civil War. However, there is no evidence to suggest they adopted anything other than the most superficial elements of fascism - they were not anti-semetic or indeed violent - and the whole thing fizzled out after a couple of years. Although the Blueshirts were the junior partner in the merger, Fine Gael politicians still have to suffer jibes for the party's association with this movement.