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Irish general election, 1989

From Academic Kids

Template:Politics of the Republic of Ireland The Irish general election of 1989 was held on Friday, June 15, 1989, three weeks after the dissolution of the Dáil on May 25. The newly elected 166 members of the 26th Dáil assembled at Leinster House on June 29. However, a new Taoiseach and government weren't appointed until July 12.

The general election took place in 41 parliamentary constituencies throughout the Republic of Ireland for 166 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann.

Contents

Campaign

The general election of 1989 was precipitated by the defeat of the minority Fianna Fáil government in a private members motion regarding the provision of funds for AIDS sufferers. While a general election was not necessary as the defeat was only seen as something that was an embarrassment for the government, the Dáil was dissolved nonetheless.

Charles Haughey, the leader of Fianna Fáil, called the general election for another reason. Opinion polls had shown that the party's strong performance in government had increased their popularity and the possibility of an overall majority could be on the cards. Rumours that the general election was called so that certain Fianna Fáil members could raise money for themselves were also doing the rounds at the time. While these rumours were dismissed at the time it was revealed over ten years later that Ray Burke, Pádraig Flynn and Haughey himself had received substantial personal donations during the campaign.

While it was thought that the general election would catch the opposition parties on the hop they co-ordinated themselves and co-operated very quickly. Cuts in the health service became the dominant issue in spite of the good reputation the government had for managing the economy. Alan Dukes, the leader of Fine Gael, was fighting his first general election as leader. His "Tallaght Strategy" had kept Fianna Fáil in power for the two years since 1987, however now his head was on the block as he had to prove that he was a worthy leader.

In spite of the fact that the general election was held on the same day as the elections to the European Parliament, turnout was only 68.5%. Perhaps the electorate were weary of elections, particularly since this was the fifth general election to be held in Ireland in the 1980s.

Result

Party Leader Seats First Preferences
# of Seats Gain/Loss % of Dáil # of Votes %
Fianna Fáil Charles J. Haughey 77 -4 46.38   44.2
Fine Gael Alan Dukes 55 +4 33.13   29.3
Labour Party Dick Spring 15 +3 9.03   9.5
Workers' Party Prionsias de Rossa 7 +3 4.21   5.0
Progressive Democrats Desmond O'Malley 6 -8 3.6   5.5
Green Party/Comhaontas Glas none 1 +0 0.6   1.5
Independents 5 +1 3.01    
  166   100.0   100.0

While Fianna Fáil had hoped to achieve an overall majority, the party actually lost seats. The result was a disaster for Fianna Fáil, particularly when the election was so unnecessary. Fine Gael made a small gain, but nothing substantial. The Progressive Democrats also did badly losing over half their deputies. The Labour Party and the Workers' Party gained working class votes from Fianna Fáil, but failed to make the big breakthrough. In all the general election was a disaster for all the parties concerned.

Forming a government proved to be extremely difficult. Many in Fianna Fáil had hoped that the minority government could continue where it left off, particularly if the "Tallaght Strategy" continued. However, Fine Gael refused to support the government and so a deadlock developed. The prospect of forming a government seemed remote, so much so that Charles Haughey was forced to formally resign as Taoiseach. For the first time in Irish history a Taoiseach and a government had not been appointed when the new Dáil met. However, twenty-seven days after the general election Fianna Fáil entered into coalition government for the first time ever with the Progressive Democrats.

First Time TDs

See also


Irish General Elections

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