Although the clichéd status of the phrase 'the party's over' makes it almost redundant, the esteem in which parties are held has never been lower. One facet of party decline is the renewed interest in independents. Previously confined to transition states and non-democracies, they have begun to make some political headway in more established states. This is a worrying development for both political parties and those who profess their normative value. This article examines the source of the re-emergent independent presence via a case study of Ireland, a party democracy where they have had the greatest impact. Using constituency-level data, the influences of political, cultural and institutional factors are examined. It is found that independents are a product of both a small political system and declining party attachment. They are a protest option for those not drawn to ideological anti-establishment parties, while there is mixed evidence concerning the influence of a centre-periphery socioeconomic divide.