The Irish Labour party is the nation's oldest extant political party, and the only major party which doesn't trace its origins back to the violent conflicts of the War of Independence and the Civil War.1

The party's current leader is Dublin architect Ruairi Quinn, previously Minister for Finance in coalition governments between 1993 and 1997 (first with Fianna Fáil, and then in a Rainbow Coalition with Fine Gael and Democratic Left).

1.This distinction is diluted somewhat by Labour's recent merger with Democratic Left, a smaller socialist party which can trace its origins back to the Sinn Féin split in the early seventies.

The following is how the Labour party describe themselves on the Irish Government web site:

"The Labour Party is represented in Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann and in the European Parliament as a member of the Party of European Socialists (PES).

"The Party was founded in 1912 at a conference of the Irish Trade Union Congress in Clonmel under the inspiration of James Connolly, Jim Larkin and William O'Brien.

"It is the oldest political party in Ireland and through its affiliation to the Socialist International is a sister party of the Social Democratic and Labour Party in Northern Ireland.

"The Labour Party seeks to build a society free from deprivation and based on the principles of democracy, equality, participation and co-operation.

"The Labour Party has twelve affiliated trade unions representing 50% of all trade union members in the State. Since its foundation, the Labour Party has taken part in seven coalition Governments most recently from 1994 to 1997.

"At the General Election of 1997 the Party won 17 seats making it the third largest party in the Dail. In the 1993 Government the Labour Party contributed to the negotiation of the Joint Declaration on peace in Northern Ireland signed by the then Taoiseach and British Prime Minister at Downing Street on 15 December, 1993. In 1990 Labour T.D.s and Senators nominated Mary Robinson as President of Ireland. She went on to win the election and became Ireland's first woman President.

"The leader of the Labour Party is Ruairi Quinn. The Party Head Office is at 17 Ely Place, Dublin 2."