The paper is generally perceived as liberal and social democratic, in contrast to the Irish Independent, which is perceived as populist and economically right wing. For example, it was seen as supportive of Mary Robinson's campaign for the presidency of Ireland, and of legal changes in Ireland to Ireland's divorce, contraception and abortion laws.
Historically, The Irish Times was formed to be the voice of Irish protestants and unionists and to support the maintenance of Ireland's membership of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In the mid twentieth century, as the Irish republic exited not just the United Kingdom but the British Commonwealth, the paper changed its identity, becoming a more radical voice in the Irish media.
Its most prominent columnists include controversial former Sunday Tribune[?] editor, Vincent Browne[?], left wing writer and arts commentator Fintan O'Toole[?] and former taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Garret FitzGerald. Senior international figures, including Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and others have written for its 'Op-Ed' (Opinion and Editorial) page. Its most prominent columns include Drapier (an anonymous column produced weekly by a politician, giving the 'insider' view of politics) and Rite and Reason, its weekly religious column, edited by Patsy McGarry[?], its Religious Affairs Editor.
The Times is in considerable financial difficulty over a disastrous decision to invest its reserves in the building of a new printing plant; it has recently laid off a large number of its journalists and is undergoing major restructuring. Some of its external bureaux were closed, while it also ceased publishing 'colour' pages specifically devoted to covering local Irish regions, with regional coverage now merged with news.