Desmond first stood for election to Dáil Éireann at the 1944 general election, in the Cork South-East constituency, where he was defeated, winning barely 5% of the first-preference votes. However, his second candidacy was successful: at the 1948 general election he was the first candidate to be elected in the new 3-seat Cork South constituency.
He took his seat in the 13th Dáil, and was re-elected at the 1951 general election and again in the 1954 and 1957 general elections, topping the poll again in 1951 and 1954. After further boundary changes, he was returned at the 1961 general election for the new 4-seat Cork Mid constituency.
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