1932 Irish general election

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1932 Irish general election

← Sept. 1927 16 February 1932 1933 →

153 seats in Dáil Éireann[a]
77 seats needed for a majority
Turnout76.5% Increase 7.5pp
  First party Second party
Éamon de Valera.jpg
W. T. Cosgrave, circa 1930 (cropped).jpg
Leader Éamon de Valera W. T. Cosgrave
Party Fianna Fáil Cumann na nGaedheal
Leader since 26 March 1926 April 1923
Leader's seat Clare Cork Borough
Last election 57 seats, 35.2% 62 seats, 38.6%
Seats before 56 64
Seats won 72 57[a]
Seat change Increase15 Decrease5
Popular vote 566,498 449,506
Percentage 44.5% 35.2%
Swing Increase9.3% Decrease3.4%

  Third party Fourth party
Tom J. O'Connell, circa 1930s.jpg
Leader Thomas O'Connell
Party Labour Farmers' Party
Leader since 1927
Leader's seat Mayo South
Last election 13 seats, 9.1% 6 seats, 6.4%
Seats before 10 6
Seats won 7 3
Seat change Decrease6 Decrease 3
Popular vote 98,286 22,899
Percentage 7.7% 1.8%
Swing Decrease1.4% Decrease 4.6%

Percentage of seats gained by each of the three biggest parties, and number of seats gained by smaller parties and independents.

President of the Executive Council before election

W. T. Cosgrave
Cumann na nGaedheal

Elected President of the Executive Council

Éamon de Valera
Fianna Fáil

The 1932 Irish general election to the 7th Dáil was held on Tuesday, 16 February, following the dissolution of the 6th Dáil on 29 January by Governor-General James McNeill on the advice of President of the Executive Council W. T. Cosgrave. The general election took place in 30 parliamentary constituencies throughout the Irish Free State for 153 seats in Dáil Éireann. It was the first election held in the Irish Free State since the Statute of Westminster 1931 removed the authority of the United Kingdom parliament to legislate for the Dominions, including the Irish Free State.

The 7th Dáil met at Leinster House on 9 March to nominate the President and Executive Council of the Irish Free State for appointment by the Governor-General. This resulted in the first change of government in the Irish Free State. Cumann na nGaedheal, which had been the governing party since 1922, was succeeded by Fianna Fáil, which became the largest party in the chamber and formed a government led by Éamon de Valera, with the support of the Labour Party. Fianna Fáil would be the largest party in Dáil Éireann at every general election thereafter until 2011.


The election campaign between the two ideologically opposed parties was reasonably peaceful. However, during the campaign the government prosecuted de Valera's newly established newspaper, The Irish Press. The editor was also brought before a military tribunal. This was seen by many as a major blunder and a serious infringement on the belief of freedom of speech. The "red scare" tactics also seemed to backfire on the government.

Two days before the election, Patrick Reynolds, a Cumann na nGaedheal TD was assassinated in Ballinamore. A garda detective was murdered in the same incident. The poll in Leitrim–Sligo was postponed and Reynolds' widow Mary was elected.[4]

Cumann na nGaedheal[edit]

Posters used by Cumann na nGaedheal during the election

Cumann na nGaedheal fought the general election on its record of providing ten years of stable government. The party claimed to have brought stability following the chaos of the Irish Civil War and to have provided honest government. However, by 1932 this provision of solid government was wearing thin, particularly since the party had no solution to the collapse in trade which followed the depression of the early 1930s. Instead of offering new policies, the party believed that its record in government would be enough to retain power. Cumann na nGaedheal also played the "red scare" tactic, describing Fianna Fáil as communists and likening Éamon de Valera to Joseph Stalin.

Fianna Fáil[edit]

In comparison to Cumann na nGaedheal, Fianna Fáil had an elaborate election programme, designed to appeal to a wide section of the electorate. It played down its republicanism to avoid alarm, but provided very popular social and economic policies. The party promised to free IRA prisoners, abolish the Oath of allegiance and reduce the powers of the Governor-General and the Senate. It also promised the introduction of protectionist policies, industrial development, self-sufficiency and improvements in housing and social security benefits.[5][6]


Election to the 7th Dáil – 16 February 1932[7][8][9]
Party Leader Seats ± % of
First pref.
% FPv ±%
Fianna Fáil Éamon de Valera 72 +15 47.1 566,498 44.5 +9.3
Cumann na nGaedheal W. T. Cosgrave 57[a] −4 37.3 449,506 35.3 −3.4
Labour Thomas J. O'Connell 7 −6 4.6 98,286 7.7 −1.4
Farmers' Party 3 −3 1.9 22,899 1.8 −4.6
Irish Worker League James Larkin 0 0 0 3,860 0.3 –0.8
Revolutionary Workers' Groups 0 New 0 1,087 0.1
Independent N/A 14 +2 9.1 131,890 10.4 +2.5
Spoilt votes 20,804
Total 153[a] 0 100 1,294,830 100
Electorate/Turnout 1,695,175 76.5%

Voting summary[edit]

First preference vote
Fianna Fáil
Cumann na nGaedheal

Seats summary[edit]

Dáil seats
Fianna Fáil
Cumann na nGaedheal

Government formation[edit]

Fianna Fáil was five seats short of an overall majority, but it still looked like the only party capable of forming a government. Discussions got underway immediately after the election and an agreement was reached in which the Labour Party would support Fianna Fáil. The party now had the necessary votes to form a minority government. After the results were announced, newly elected Fianna Fáil TD Seán Moylan proclaimed that the election was a victory of "the owners of the donkey and cart over the pony and trap class".[10]

On 9 March 1932 the first change of government in the Irish Free State took place. Many in the country and abroad wondered if the true test of democracy would be passed, whether it would be possible for the men who won a civil war only ten years before to hand over power to their opponents. Similar to when the party first entered the Dáil in 1927, a number of Fianna Fáil TDs had guns in their pockets. However, the feared coup d'état did not take place. W. T. Cosgrave was determined to adhere to the principles of democracy that he had practised while in government. Likewise, the army, Garda Síochána and the civil service all accepted the change of government, despite the fact that they would now be taking orders from men who had been their enemies less than ten years previously. After a brief and uneventful meeting in the Dáil chamber, Éamon de Valera was appointed President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State by the Governor-General, James McNeill, who had come to Leinster House to make the appointment rather than require de Valera travel to the Viceregal Lodge, formerly a symbol of British rule. He formed the 6th Executive Council of the Irish Free State. Fianna Fáil, a party led by many of the men most closely identified with opposing the existence of the state ten years earlier, were now the party of government. The 1932 general election was the beginning of a sixteen-year period in government for Fianna Fáil.

Membership changes[edit]

First time TDs[edit]

Outgoing TDs[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Including Michael Hayes (CnaG), returned automatically for the National University of Ireland as outgoing Ceann Comhairle, under Art. 21 of the Constitution, as amended by the Constitution (Amendment No. 2) Act 1927, and s. 2 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 1927.[1][2][3]


  1. ^ Constitution (Amendment No. 2) Act 1927, s. 1: Re-election at general election of outgoing Chairman of Dáil Eireann (No. 6 of 1927, s. 1). Enacted on 19 March 1927. Act of the Oireachtas. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book.
  2. ^ Electoral (Amendment) Act 1927, s. 2: Re-election of outgoing Ceann Comhairle (No. 21 of 1927, s. 2). Enacted on 22 May 1927. Act of the Oireachtas. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book.
  3. ^ "7th Dáil 1932: National University of Ireland". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 1 July 2022.
  4. ^ "Former TD was 'synonymous with Fine Gael in Leitrim'". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 6 March 2018. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  5. ^ Bew, Paul; Hazelkorn, Ellen; Patterson, Henry (1989). The Dynamics of Irish Politics. London: Lawrence & Wishart. p. 42.
  6. ^ Mair, Pater; Weeks, Liam (2004). "The Party System". In Coakley, John; Gallagher, Michael (eds.). Politics in the Republic of Ireland (4th ed.). New York: Routledge. p. 140.
  7. ^ "7th Dáil 1932 General Election". ElectionsIreland.org. Archived from the original on 4 June 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2009.
  8. ^ "Dáil elections since 1918". ARK Northern Ireland. Archived from the original on 27 November 2020. Retrieved 13 April 2009.
  9. ^ Nohlen, Dieter; Stöver, Philip (2010). Elections in Europe: A data handbook. pp. 1009–1017. ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7.
  10. ^ Ferriter, Diarmuid (28 January 2022). "Diarmaid Ferriter: Fianna Fáil now bereft of its catch-all credentials". The Irish Times. Retrieved 29 January 2022.