1997 Irish general election
166 of 166 seats in Dáil Éireann
84 seats needed for a majority
Percentage of seats gained by each of the three major parties, and number of seats gained by smaller parties and independents.
The 1997 general election saw the public offered a choice of two possible coalitions. The existing government was a coalition of Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Democratic Left – the so-called "Rainbow Coalition". This in very broad terms could be described as a centre-left coalition. It was opposed by a possible coalition of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, which most[who?] Irish commentators regarded as a centre-right coalition.
The outgoing Rainbow parties campaigned to re-elect the coalition and thus emphasized the working relationship that they had developed, running with the slogan 'Partnership That Works'. They claimed credit for a booming economy, improving social services and reforms such as the introduction of divorce. Despite this united front, each party fought its own campaign.
Fine Gael ran as a law and order party, drawing attention to the anti-crime policies it had put in place. Labour emphasised the number of campaign pledges it had managed to implement not only as part of the Rainbow government, but also during its coalition with Fianna Fail.
Fianna Fáil under Bertie Ahern had been restructuring itself after its turbulent period under Charles Haughey and Albert Reynolds. The party's central office gained control of candidate selection and modernised its campaigning strategy, especially concerning vote management and controlling transfers under Ireland's PR electoral system. In addition, the bitter internal feuding that had dogged the party for decades was ended by Ahern's more unifying style of leadership. This leadership also allowed Fianna Fáil to run a very energetic campaign that emphasised Ahern's relative youth and enthusiasm, which distanced the party from scandals that had beset the party.
Despite entering the election with polls suggesting they would overtake Labour as the third biggest party, and with Mary Harney as the most popular party leader, the Progressive Democrats struggled. Initially, it ran a presidential-style campaign that emphasized Harney. However, entering a pact with a resurgent Fianna Fáil meant it struggled to assert itself. In response, the PDs hastily published a manifesto-a move that backfired as it controversially called for single parent benefit to be cut in order to encourage single mothers to live with their parents. This drew fire from Pronsias De Rossa, who claimed Harney did 'not have a bull's notion about social welfare'
|Irish Times/MRBI||7 June||44||27||8||4||3||3||11|
|Independent Newspapers-IMS||2 June||44||29||9||5||2||3||6|
|Irish Times/MRBI||28 May||42||26||11||7||2||4||8|
|Independent Newspapers-IMS||29 May||40||29||11||6||2||4||8|
|Independent Newspapers-IMS||26 May||41||26||10||5||2||4||12|
|Irish Times/MRBI||20 May||43||26||10||7||2||3||9|
|Irish Times/MRBI||5 May||43||26||12||8||2||3||6|
|Party||Fianna Fáil||Fine Gael||Labour Party||Progressive Democrats||Green Party||Sinn Féin||Democratic Left||Socialist Party|
|Leader||Bertie Ahern||John Bruton||Dick Spring||Mary Harney||—||Gerry Adams||Proinsias De Rossa||Joe Higgins|
|Votes||39.3%, 703,682||27.9%, 499,936||10.4%, 186,044||4.7%, 83,765||2.8%, 49,323||2.5%, 45,614||2.5%, 44,901||0.7%, 12,445|
|Seats||77 (46.4%)||54 (32.5%)||17 (10.2%)||4 (2.4%)||2 (1.2%)||1 (0.6%)||4 (2.4%)||1 (0.6%)|
|Fianna Fáil||PD||Inds||Fine Gael||Labour||DL|
|28th Irish general election – 6 June 1997|
|Fianna Fáil||Bertie Ahern||77||10||46.4||703,682||39.3||0.2|
|Fine Gael||John Bruton||54||9||32.5||499,936||27.9||3.4|
|Progressive Democrats||Mary Harney||4||6||2.4||83,765||4.7||±0.0|
|Sinn Féin||Gerry Adams||1||1||0.6||45,614||2.5||0.9|
|Democratic Left||Proinsias De Rossa||4||0||2.4||44,901||2.5||0.3|
|National Party||Nora Bennis||0||New||0||19,077||1.1||New|
|Socialist Party||Joe Higgins||1||New||0.6||12,445||0.7||New|
|Christian Solidarity||Gerard Casey||0||New||0||8,357||0.5||New|
|Workers' Party||Tom French||0||0||0||7,808||0.4||0.3|
|Natural Law Party||N/A||0||New||0||1,515||0.1||New|
|South Kerry Independent||0||New||0||1,388||0.1||New|
- Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats minority coalition government formed.
The outgoing Ceann Comhairle retired at this election. Independents include Independent Fianna Fáil (11,607 votes, 1 seat).
Dáil membership changes
The following changes took place as a result of the election:
- 17 outgoing TDs retired, including the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Treacy
- 149 TDs stood for re-election
- 121 were re-elected
- 28 failed to be re-elected
- 45 successor TDs were elected
- 32 were elected for the first time
- 13 had previously been TDs
- There were 6 successor female TDs, replacing 9 outgoing, decreasing the total number by 3 to 20
- There were changes in 34 of the 41 constituencies contested
Outgoing TDs are listed in the constituency they constested in the election. For some, such as Kildare North, this differs from the constituency they represented in the outgoing Dáil. Where more than one change took place in a constituency the concept of successor is an approximation for presentation only.
Following the election none of the major parties had a clear majority. Negotiations resulted in a Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats coalition taking office. Four Independent Teachta Dála (TDs) also supported the government ensuring an overall majority. Bertie Ahern became the Taoiseach while Mary Harney of the Progressive Democrats became Tánaiste.
Although Fine Gael gained seats, it crossed the Dáil chamber to the Opposition benches. Fianna Fáil also increased its representation, but the Progressive Democrats had a disastrous election, losing more than half their seats – including ones thought safe such as Cork North-Central and Dún Laoghaire, despite no decrease in their vote.
The Green Party picked up an extra seat, with John Gormley elected in Dublin South-East. He was elected by just over 30 votes after a marathon recount, lasting four days, saw Progressive Democrat Michael McDowell defeated.
The main feature of the election, however, was the collapse of the Labour Party vote. Not only did it lose seats it had picked up in the 1992 general election, when its vote was an at all-time high – such as in Clare and Laois–Offaly – but it also lost reasonably safe seats, such as in Dublin North, Dublin Central and Cork South-Central. Dick Spring would later retire as leader of the Labour Party.
Democratic Left also suffered, losing its two gains made in by-elections during the 27th Dáil. Sinn Féin made its debut in the Dáil for the first time since 1957), with the party winning a seat in the Cavan–Monaghan constituency with the election of Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. It also narrowly missed a seat in Kerry North. The Socialist Party, a Trotskyist party which consisted of former members of the Labour Party expelled in 1989, gained a seat in the Dublin West constituency.
- "28th Dáil – General Election: 6 June 1997". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
- Dieter Nohlen & Philip Stöver (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, pp1009-1017 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
- After the election, while Gerry Adams was leader of the Sinn Féin party, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin became leader (indeed, sole member) of the Sinn Féin parliamentary party.