Irish general election, 1977


Irish general election, 1977

The Irish general election of 1977 was held on 16 June 1977 and is regarded as a pivotal point in 20th century Irish politics. The general election took place in 42 parliamentary constituencies throughout the Republic of Ireland for 148 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann. The number of seats in the Dáil was increased from 144 to 148. The newly elected 148 members of the 21st Dáil assembled at Leinster House on 5 July when a new Fianna Fáil government replaced the incumbent Fine GaelLabour Party coalition, with Jack Lynch becoming Taoiseach.

Campaign

In spite of having faced some controversial issues during its term of office, the ruling Fine GaelLabour Party coalition looked set to defy political history by winning an unprecedented second term. This belief was further augmented following the so-called "Tullymander" of parliamentary constituencies. This refers to the Minister for Local Government, James Tully, and his scheme of redrawing every constituency in the country in an effort to maximise the vote for the coalition partners. For instance in Dublin there were thirteen three-seat constituencies. It was hoped that the coalition partners would win two of the seats, leaving Fianna Fáil with only one seat. A similar tactic was used in rural areas where the party was at its strongest.

As a result of this, Fianna Fáil and its leader, Jack Lynch, believed that they couldn't win the general election. The party drew up a manifesto which offered the electorate a string of financial and economic "sweeteners", encouraging them to vote for Fianna Fáil. Some of the promises that were offered included the abolition of rates on houses, the abolition of car tax and the promise of reducing unemployment to under 100,000. Lynch agreed to the manifesto because he believed that the party needed something dramatic if it were to win the election. This was not the case.

The Fianna Fáil campaign was based on the American model. Lynch travelled the length and breadth of the country, accompanied by his followers. His popularity was at its highest, and it soon became clear that the manifesto was unnecessary. Lynch's popularity alone was Fianna Fáil's biggest electoral asset. The party slogan, "Bring Back Jack", even played on Lynch's huge appeal. The campaign swung in Fianna Fáil's favour by polling day; however, nobody could have predicted the scale of the victory.

In contrast to Fianna Fáil, the government parties of Fine Gael and the Labour Party fought the general election on their record in government. The redrawing of the constituency boundaries also gave them hope for success, however, they offered little else to the electorate apart from the policies they had been pursuing for the previous four years.

While towards the end of the campaign Fianna Fáil were expected to win the general election, nobody predicted the scale of that victory. An unprecedented twenty-seat majority in Dáil Éireann for Fianna Fáil saw the National Coalition swept from power in the biggest political hurricane in Irish history. Only Éamon de Valera had ever done better, but only once out of 13 elections. Following the election defeat the leaders of Fine Gael and the Labour Party, Liam Cosgrave and Brendan Corish resigned as leaders of their respective parties, the first occasion in which a defeated Taoiseach or Tánaiste had done so.

"Tullymandering" was widely blamed for the scale of the coalition's defeat as the constituency boundaries had given them many seats that would be lost on only a small drop in their share of the vote. The new government established an independent commission to carry out future boundary revisions.

Result

First time TDs

A total of 42 TDs were elected for the first time:

* Bertie Ahern
* Kit Ahern
* Niall Andrews
* Liam Aylward
* John Boland
* Gerard Brady
* Vincent Brady
* Barry Cogan
* Hugh Conaghan
* Michael Joe Cosgrave
* Michael D'Arcy
* Síle de Valera
* Austin Deasy
* Seán Doherty
* Eddie Filgate
* Jim Fitzsimons
* Pádraig Flynn
* Christopher Fox
* John Horgan
* Michael Keating
* Seán Keegan
* Patrick Kerrigan
* Timothy Killeen
* Mark Killilea, Jnr
* Liam Lawlor
* Eileen Lemass
* Thomas Leonard
* Terry Leyden
* Michael Lipper
* John Mannion, Jnr
* Charlie McCreevy
* Jim Mitchell
* P. J. Morley
* William O'Brien
* Martin O'Donoghue (Appointed Minister for Economic Planning & Development on his first day in the Dáil.)
* Rory O'Hanlon
* Jim O'Keeffe
* Paddy O'Toole
* Ruairi Quinn
* Albert Reynolds
* Joe Walsh
* Michael Woods

By-elections

* Myra Barry
* Clement Coughlan
* Liam Burke

Outgoing TDs

* Justin Keating
* Conor Cruise O'Brien
* Ruairí Brugha
* Seán Flanagan
* Liam Burke
* Augustine A. Healy

ee also

* Members of the 21st Dáil
* Government of the 21st Dáil
* Ministers of State of the 21st Dáil


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