Irish presidential election, 1997

Irish presidential election, 1997
Republic of Ireland
30 October 1997

Turnout 47.6%
Nominee Mary McAleese Mary Banotti Dana Rosemary Scallon
Party Fianna Fáil Fine Gael Independent
1st preference 574,424 (45.2%) 372,002 (29.3%) 175,458 (13.8%)
Final count 706,259 (55.6%) 497,516 (39.2%) Eliminated

Nominee Adi Roche Derek Nally
Party Independent Independent
1st preference 88,423 (7.0%) 59,529 (4.7%)
Final count Eliminated Eliminated

President before election

Mary Robinson[1]

Elected President

Mary McAleese
Fianna Fáil

The Irish presidential election of 1997 was held on 30 October 1997. It was the eleventh presidential election to be held in Ireland, and only the sixth to be contested by more than one candidate.


The election had the biggest number of candidates contesting the position. In all, five people received nominations, and more remarkably, four of them were women.

Mary McAleese

Mary McAleese was the candidate of the Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats parties for the presidency.[2] Born in Belfast, she was formerly a journalist with broadcaster, RTÉ, and at the time of her nomination, she was Pro-Vice Chancellor of Queens University Belfast. Although an activist with Fianna Fáil for many years, she was thought to be unlikely to receive the party's nomination. Two other candidates, Albert Reynolds and Michael O'Kennedy, also sought the party's nomination. Reynolds was a former Taoiseach while O'Kennedy was a former cabinet minister having served in the Finance and Foreign Affairs portfolios. Both were also sitting Teachtaí Dála (TDs) which was seen as an advantage. In the first round of voting, Reynolds received 49 votes, McAleese 42, and O'Kennedy 21. In the second round, McAleese won, with 62 votes to Reynolds's 48.

Mary Banotti

Mary Banotti was the choice of the Fine Gael party to represent them in the election.She was the grand-niece of the former Irish leader, Michael Collins, and sister of the deputy leader of the party, Nora Owen. She defeated colleague Avril Doyle for the party nomination in a very close contest. Banotti, who was an MEP at the time, was the only practising politician among the five presidential candidates.

Adi Roche

Adi Roche received the nominations of the Labour Party, Democratic Left and the Green Party. She was a charity worker and human rights campaigner at the time.

Dana Rosemary Scallon

Dana Rosemary Scallon received the nominations of five county councils. While this was a constitutionally legitimate means of gaining nomination to compete for the presidency, it was the first time it had been tried successfully. In the 1945 presidential election, Patrick McCartan tried this approach unsuccessfully.

Scallon was a singer, the winner of the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest, and a Family values campaigner.

Derek Nally

Derek Nally was the fifth candidate to join the presidential race and the only male candidate. He was a retired Garda and victims' rights campaigner, and he received the nominations of five county councils, like Scallon.


The presidential election was due to be held in November but it was advanced by two months upon the early resignation by the incumbent, Mary Robinson, to assume her new appointment as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The turnout for the election was extremely low, with only 1,279,688 people, or 48 percent of the electorate, casting their votes. In the final result, McAleese easily beat Banotti, while Dana came third, and Roche came fourth. Thus, Mary McAleese became the eighth president of Ireland.


Irish presidential election, 1997[3]
Party Candidate Nominated by % 1st Pref Count 1 Count 2
Fianna Fáil Mary McAleese Oireachtas: Fianna Fáil, Progressive Democrats 45.2 574,424 706,259
Fine Gael Mary Banotti Oireachtas: Fine Gael 29.3 372,002 497,516
Independent Dana Rosemary Scallon County and City Councils 13.8 175,458  
Independent Adi Roche Oireachtas: Labour Party, Democratic Left and Green Party 6.9 88,423  
Independent Derek Nally County and City Councils 4.7 59,529  
Electorate: 2,688,316   Valid: 1,269,836   Spoilt: 9,852 (0.7%)   Quota: 634,919   Turnout: 47.6%
First preference vote
Final percentage


  1. Technically, the Presidential Commission was the incumbent president on the date of the election, as President Mary Robinson had resigned seven weeks earlier.
  3. "Presidential Election November 1997". Retrieved 23 November 2009.
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