Saving the State: Fine Gael from Collins to Varadkar (2020)

Now available from Gill Books

‘A superb, illuminating and even-handed look at the highs and lows in Fine Gael’s turbulent history,’

~ David McCullagh,                                                      author of DeValera: Rise and DeValera: Rule.


When Fine Gael entered a coalition government with Fianna Fáil in 2020 the party did what would have been unthinkable for its forefathers who fought and won a bitter civil war to establish the institutions of an independent Irish state almost a century earlier. Saving the State is the remarkable story of Fine Gael from its origins in the fraught days of civil war to the political convulsions of 2020.

Written by political journalist Stephen Collins and historian Ciara Meehan, Saving the State draws on a wealth of original historical research and a range of interviews with key political figures to chart the evolution of the party through the lens of its successive leaders. Some of them ended up in the Taoiseach’s office while others had to endure long periods of opposition, but what sustained them was the belief that the party had something unique to contribute to Irish political life.

From the special place in the party’s pantheon of heroes occupied by Michael Collins to the dark era of the Blueshirts, and from its role as the founders of the state to its claim to be the defenders of the state, the ways that members perceive their own history is also explored.

Saving the State is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how Fine Gael came to be the party it is today, the ways in which it interprets and presents its own history, and the role that it played in shaping modern Ireland.


Saving the State gives the unvarnished truth about the party’s murky beginnings and mixed political fortunes. It is an accessible and engaging account of one hundred years of politics told through the Fine Gael prism. The book succeeds in condensing complicated episodes without glossing over key facts and affords readers insights without overwhelming them with unnecessary details’ ~ David Murphy (RTÉ Political Coverage Editor), 1 January 2021. Read the review in full on the RTÉ website.

‘formidable, authoritative’ ~ Andrew Lynch, 8 November 2020. Read the review in full in the Sunday Business Post.

> ‘Stephen Collins and Ciara Meehan have done us a service in examining the origins of the Fine Gael party … This work is a good read’ ~ Senator Michael McDowell, 8 November 2020. Read the review in full in The Sunday Times.

> ‘This factionalism and rivalry is vividly depicted in this racy and readable book, which also provides a solid history of Fine Gael and does not shirk from examining the significant of its first president Eoin O’Duffy … This is a fine book, keenly priced and handsomely produced. My only quibble is with the title, which despite the authors’ explanations, continues to jar … But these are small matters and Stephen Collins and Ciara Meehan have made a valuable contribution to the canon of Irish political histories’ ~ David Davin Power (veteran political commentator and journalist), 31 October 2020. Read the review in full in the Irish Independent.

> ‘Despite any misgivings over the title, it is certainly not the puff-piece in favour of Fine Gael that sections of the online community had pegged it to be … It is a tremendously well written book … Overall, this is an an interesting and engaging look at the history of one of the major parties within the Irish state’ ~ Barry Sheppard (Queen’s University, Belfast and Presenter of History Now on NVTV), 30 October 2020. Read the review in full on The Irish Story.

Media Coverage

 18 December 2020: Ciara Meehan joined Barry Sheppard on NVTV’s History Now to discuss the book. Watch the episode in full.

 6 December 2020: The Sunday Independent included the book in the ‘Political and History’ section of its ‘Best Books of 2020’ feature.

 22 November 2020: John Bowman featured the book on Bowman: Sunday on RTÉ Radio 1.

 21 November 2020: The book was included in the Irish Independent‘s ‘Ultimate Readers’ Gift Guide‘ for Christmas.

12 November 2020: J. Anthony Gaughan summarised the book for The Irish Catholic; ‘The authors provide a detailed account of the highs and lows of those administrations’.

> 11 November 2020: Stephen Collins and Ciara Meehan joined Matt Cooper on Today FM’s The Last Word to discuss the book.

> 9 November 2020: Stephen Collins and Ciara Meehan joined Hugh Linehan for The Irish TimesInside Politics‘ podcast.

> 9 November 2020: Stephen Collins discussed the book with Damien Tiernan on the morning programme of WLR, Waterford.

> 7 November 2020: Ciara Meehan was interviewed for and quoted in Kim Bielenberg’s column in the Irish Independent about Leo Varadkar’s leadership of Fine Gael.

> 7 November 2020: The Irish Times published an edited extract from Chapter Two, ‘Eoin O’Duffy, the Blueshirts and the Creation of Fine Gael’.

> 2 November 2020: Stephen Collins discussed the book with Paul O’Doherty on ‘Bookbound’ on Dublin City FM.

> 6 November 2020: Stephen Collins mentioned the book in his Friday column in The Irish Times about the State’s democratic institutions.

> 5 November 2020: Ciara Meehan discussed the book with Tommy Marren on Mid-West Radio.

> 2 November 2020: Stephen Collins discussed the book with Joe Finnegan on the morning programme of Shannonside/Northern Sound.

> 1 November 2020: Matt Cooper mentioned in the Sunday Business Post, focusing on Noel Browne’s contributions to the first inter-party government, of which John A. Costello was Taoiseach (see chapter three):

Stephen Collins and Ciara Meehan have written a fascinating book about the history of Fine Gael. Saving the State: Fine Gael From Collins to Varadkar is likely to be read by anyone with an interest of the history of politics in this country. It also allows for useful comparisons with how we do things now.

> 30 October 2020: Michael Brennan in the Sunday Business Post includes extracts from an interview with Leo Varadkar for the book.

> 29 October 2020: Miriam Lord mentioned the book in her regular column in The Irish Times:

Told through the lens of its leaders and taoisigh (former taoiseach, current Tánaiste and taoiseach-in-waiting Leo Varadkar has much to say), Saving the State chronicles the wilderness years and the achievements in government, the defeats and crises, the partnerships and the leadership upheavals that have shaped Fine Gael over the decades.

Dr Dave has given it a thumbs up.

“A superb, illuminating and even-handed look at the highs and lows in Fine Gael’s turbulent history,” writes historian David McCullagh, author of De Valera: Rise and De Valera: Rule. He also moonlights of an evening out in RTÉ, co-anchoring the Six-One News with Caitríona Perry.



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