Irish general election, 1989

Irish general election, 1989

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

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.


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.

Although 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.


:Notes:: No by-elections had taken place during the previous Dáil. One seat in Sligo-Leitrim had been vacant at the dissolution of the previous (25th) Dáil caused by the resignation of the Fianna Fáil member Ray McSharry. []

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, while Sinn Féin polled even worse than its 1987 result. The Green Party won its first seat when Roger Garland was elected for Dublin South.

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.

Dáil membership changes

* 32 TDs were elected for the first time.

ee also

* Members of the 26th Dáil
* Government of the 26th Dáil
* Ministers of State of the 26th Dáil
* Members of the 19th Seanad

External links

* [ - Results]

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