Irish general election, 1997
|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 Irish commentators regarded as a centre-right coalition.
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 won a seat for the first time since 1957, 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.
|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|
|Party||Leader||Seats||±|| % of
| First Pref
|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|
|Labour Party||Dick Spring||17||16||10.2||186,044||10.4||8.9|
|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.
- "28th Dáil – General Election: 6 June 1997". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
- Nohlen, D & Stöver, P (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.
- 1997 election: Party leaders' debate RTÉ archives dead link
- Fianna Fail Election Manifesto 1997 Irish general election