For most of its history, the Irish Independent (or the Independent as it is called colloquially) was seen as a right-wing, nationalist, catholic newspaper, which gave its political allegiance to Cumann na nGaedhael and later its successor party, Fine Gael. It urged Irish support, along with the Irish Christian Front, for General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War.
In the 1970s, it was taken over by former Heinz chairman, Tony O'Reilly (now known as Sir Anthony O'Reilly). Under his leadership, it became a more populist mid-market newspaper. It also became less politically aligned with Fine Gael. In the 1997 general election, it controversially endorsed Fianna Fáil under a front page editorial, entitled 'Its Payback Time'.
Its main columnists include Bruce Arnold and Sam Smyth.
Its sister paper is the Sunday Independent. Other newspapers in the Independent Newspapers group include the Evening Herald, the Daily Star (Irish edition), the Sunday World (all tabloids), many local Irish newspapers and The Independent, a London-based newspaper, as well as newspapers in Australia and South Africa. It has a major share in the Sunday Tribune, an up-market Sunday broadsheet. Its enemies accuse the Independent Group of holding an 'unhealthy dominance' of the Irish newspaper market, all the more so since the closure of the Irish Press Group in the early 1990s; with the closure of the Evening Press, the Independent's Evening Herald is now the only Irish national evening newspaper. It is an allegation the Independent disputes. What is not in dispute is that it offers a product that is widely read by Irish newspaper readers.
Its main national broadsheet rival is The Irish Times.