1997 Irish general election

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1997 Irish general election

← 1992 6 June 1997 2002 →

166 of 166 seats in Dáil Éireann
84 seats needed for a majority
Turnout65.9% Decrease 2.6pp
  First party Second party Third party
  BertieAhernBerlin2007-bis.jpg John Bruton 2011.jpg Irish Tánaiste Dick Spring at the White House, 16 Nov 1993.jpg
Leader Bertie Ahern John Bruton Dick Spring
Party Fianna Fáil Fine Gael Labour
Leader since 19 December 1994 20 November 1990 November 1982
Leader's seat Dublin Central Meath Kerry North
Last election 68 seats, 39.1% 45 seats, 24.5% 33 seats, 19.9%
Seats before 67 47 32
Seats won 77 54 17
Seat change Increase 10 Increase 7 Decrease 15
Popular vote 703,700 499,900 186,000
Percentage 39.3% 27.9% 10.4%
Swing Increase 0.2% Increase 3.4% Decrease 8.9%

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
  Mary Harney cropped.jpg Proinsias De Rossa, cropped.jpg
Leader Mary Harney Proinsias De Rossa
Party Progressive Democrats Democratic Left Green
Leader since 12 October 1993 1992
Leader's seat Dublin South-West Dublin North-West
Last election 10 seats, 4.7% 4 seats, 2.8% 1 seat, 1.4%
Seats before 9 6 1
Seats won 4 4 2
Seat change Decrease 5 Decrease 2 Increase 1
Popular vote 83,800 44,900 49,300
Percentage 4.7% 2.5% 2.8%
Swing Steady 0.0% Decrease 0.3% Increase 1.4%

  Seventh party Eighth party
  Gerry Adams, 1997.jpg Joe Higgins TD, 2014.jpg
Leader Gerry Adams Joe Higgins
Party Sinn Féin Socialist Party
Leader since 13 November 1983
Seats before 0 0
Seats won 1 1
Seat change Increase 1 Increase 1
Popular vote 45,614 12,445
Percentage 2.5% 0.7%
Swing Increase 0.9% Increase 0.7%

Irish general election 1997.png
Percentage of seats gained by each of the three major parties, and number of seats gained by smaller parties and independents.

Taoiseach before election

John Bruton
Fine Gael

Taoiseach after election

Bertie Ahern
Fianna Fáil

The 1997 Irish general election was held on Friday, 6 June. The 166 newly elected members of the 28th Dáil assembled on 26 June 1997 when a new Taoiseach and government were appointed.

The general election took place in 41 parliamentary constituencies throughout Ireland for 165 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann.


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[citation needed]. 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.[citation needed]


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'.[1] 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.[2]

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'[3]

Opinion Polls[edit]

Polling firm Date FF FG Lab PDs DL GP Ind/Oth
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%)
77 4 6 54 17 4
Fianna Fáil PD Inds Fine Gael Labour DL

Vote Share of different parties in the election.

  Fianna Fáil (39.3%)
  Fine Gael (27.9%)
  Labour Party (10.4%)
  Green Party (2.8%)
  Sinn Féin (2.5%)
  Democratic Left (2.5%)
  National Party (1.1%)
  Socialist Party (0.6%)
  Other (8.2%)
28th Irish general election – 6 June 1997[4][5]
Irish general election 1997.svg
Party Leader Seats ± % of
First Pref
% FPv ±%
Fianna Fáil Bertie Ahern 77 Increase10 46.4 703,682 39.3 Increase0.2
Fine Gael John Bruton 54 Increase9 32.5 499,936 27.9 Increase3.4
Labour Dick Spring 17 Decrease16 10.2 186,044 10.4 Decrease8.9
Progressive Democrats Mary Harney 4 Decrease6 2.4 83,765 4.7 ±0.0
Green 2 Increase1 1.2 49,323 2.8 Increase1.4
Sinn Féin Gerry Adams[6] 1 Increase1 0.6 45,614 2.5 Increase0.9
Democratic Left Proinsias De Rossa 4 Steady 0 2.4 44,901 2.5 Decrease0.3
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 Steady 0 0 7,808 0.4 Decrease0.3
Socialist Workers N/A 0 New 0 2,028 0.1 New
Natural Law Party N/A 0 New 0 1,515 0.1 New
South Kerry Independent 0 New 0 1,388 0.1 New
Independent N/A 6 Increase2 3.6 123,102 7.9 Increase1.1
Spoilt votes 17,947
Total 166 0 100 1,806,932 100
Electorate/Turnout 2,741,262 65.9%
  • 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).

Voting summary[edit]

First preference vote
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Progressive Democrats
Sinn Féin
Democratic Left

Seats summary[edit]

Assembly seats
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Progressive Democrats
Democratic Left
Sinn Féin

Dáil membership changes[edit]

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.

Constituency Departing TD Party Change Comment Successor TD Party
Carlow–Kilkenny M. J. Nolan Fianna Fáil Lost seat John McGuinness Fianna Fáil
Cavan–Monaghan Jimmy Leonard Fianna Fáil Retired Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Sinn Féin
Clare Moosajee Bhamjee Labour Party Retired Daly – Former TD Brendan Daly Fianna Fáil
Cork East John Mulvihill Labour Party Lost seat David Stanton Fine Gael
Cork North-Central Kathleen Lynch Democratic Left Lost seat Noel O'Flynn Fianna Fáil
Máirín Quill Progressive Democrats Lost seat Billy Kelleher Fianna Fáil
Cork North-West Frank Crowley Fine Gael Lost seat Michael Moynihan Fianna Fáil
Cork South-Central Peter Barry Fine Gael Retired Deirdre Clune Fine Gael
Toddy O'Sullivan Labour Party Lost seat Dennehy – Former TD John Dennehy Fianna Fáil
Cork South-West No membership changes
Donegal North-East Paddy Harte Fine Gael Lost seat Harry Blaney Ind. Fianna Fáil
Donegal South-West Pat "the Cope" Gallagher Fianna Fáil Retired Tom Gildea Independent
Dublin Central Joe Costello Labour Party Lost seat Marian McGennis Fianna Fáil
Dublin North Seán Ryan Labour Party Lost seat Wright – Former TD G. V. Wright Fianna Fáil
Dublin North-Central No membership changes
Dublin North-East Seán Kenny Labour Party Lost seat Cosgrave – Former TD Michael Joe Cosgrave Fine Gael
Liam Fitzgerald Fianna Fáil Lost seat Martin Brady Fianna Fáil
Dublin North-West Mary Flaherty Fine Gael Lost seat Pat Carey Fianna Fáil
Dublin South Eithne FitzGerald Labour Party Lost seat Olivia Mitchell Fine Gael
Dublin South-Central Eric Byrne Democratic Left Lost seat Seán Ardagh Fianna Fáil
Dublin South-East Michael McDowell Progressive Democrats Lost seat John Gormley Green Party
Dublin South-West Eamonn Walsh Labour Party Lost seat Conor Lenihan Fianna Fáil
Mervyn Taylor Labour Party Retired Brian Hayes Fine Gael
Dublin West Joan Burton Labour Party Lost seat Joe Higgins Socialist Party
Dún Laoghaire Niamh Bhreathnach Labour Party Lost seat Mary Hanafin Fianna Fáil
Helen Keogh Progressive Democrats Lost seat Barnes – Former TD Monica Barnes Fine Gael
Galway East New seat Ulick Burke Fine Gael
Galway West Máire Geoghegan-Quinn Fianna Fáil Retired Fahey – Former TD Frank Fahey Fianna Fáil
Kerry North No membership changes
Kerry South John O'Leary Fianna Fáil Retired Jackie Healy-Rae Independent
Kildare North No membership changes
Kildare South New constituency, new seat Jack Wall Labour Party
Laois–Offaly Liam Hyland Fianna Fáil Retired Seán Fleming Fianna Fáil
Pat Gallagher Labour Party Lost seat Enright – Former TD Tom Enright Fine Gael
Ger Connolly Fianna Fáil Retired John Moloney Fianna Fáil
Limerick East Peadar Clohessy Progressive Democrats Retired Eddie Wade Fianna Fáil
Limerick West Gerry Collins Fianna Fáil Retired Michael Collins Fianna Fáil
Michael J. Noonan Fianna Fáil Retired Dan Neville Fine Gael
Longford–Roscommon John Connor Fine Gael Lost seat Denis Naughten Fine Gael
Tom Foxe Independent Lost seat Belton – Former TD Louis Belton Fine Gael
Louth No membership changes
Mayo P. J. Morley Fianna Fáil Lost seat Beverley Flynn Fianna Fáil
Séamus Hughes Fianna Fáil Lost seat Constituency reduced to 5 seats
Meath Colm Hilliard Fianna Fáil Retired Johnny Brady Fianna Fáil
Brian Fitzgerald Labour Party Lost seat Farrelly – Former TD John V. Farrelly Fine Gael
Sligo–Leitrim Ted Nealon Fine Gael Retired John Perry Fine Gael
Declan Bree Labour Party Lost seat Reynolds – Former TD Gerry Reynolds Fine Gael
Tipperary North John Ryan Labour Party Retired O'Kennedy – Former TD Michael O'Kennedy Fianna Fáil
Tipperary South Seán Treacy Labour Party Retired Constituency seats from 4 to 3
Waterford No membership changes
Westmeath No membership changes
Wexford Avril Doyle Fine Gael Lost seat D'Arcy – Former TD Michael D'Arcy Fine Gael
Wicklow Godfrey Timmins Fine Gael Retired Billy Timmins Fine Gael
Liam Kavanagh Labour Party Lost seat Roche – Former TD Dick Roche Fianna Fáil


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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ https://irishelectionliterature.com/2009/09/23/partnership-that-works-rainbow-coalition-flyer-1997-election/
  2. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiT6cBsBNrQ
  3. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TMuY3naTwI&t=385s
  4. ^ "28th Dáil – General Election: 6 June 1997". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  5. ^ Dieter Nohlen & Philip Stöver (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, pp1009-1017 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
  6. ^ 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.

External links[edit]