1925 Irish Seanad election

An election for 19 of the 60 seats in Seanad Éireann, the Senate of the Irish Free State, was held on 17 September 1925. The election was by single transferable vote, with the entire state forming a single 19-seat electoral district. There were 76 candidates on the ballot paper, whom voters ranked by preference. Of the two main political parties, the larger (Cumann na nGaedheal) did not formally endorse any candidates, while the other (Sinn Féin, whose TDs were abstentionist) boycotted the election. Voter turnout was low and the outcome was considered unsatisfactory. Subsequently, senators were selected by the Oireachtas rather than the electorate.

1925 Irish Seanad election

17 September 1925

19 of 60 seats in Seanad Éireann
31 seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
Leader W. T. Cosgrave Thomas Johnson Denis Gorey
Party Cumann na nGaedheal Labour Party Farmers' Party
Leader since April 1923 1922 1922
Last election 14 seats, 23.3% 6 seats, 10% 1 seats, 1.7%
Seats before 14 6 1
Seats won 15 5 3
Seat change 1 1 2
Popular vote 126,218 46,776 42,785
Percentage 41.3% 15.3% 8.9%


Under the provisions of the 1922 Constitution of the Irish Free State, Senators were to be elected for twelve-year terms, with the 60 Senators divided into four cohorts of 15, and an election every three years for one of the cohorts.[1][2] As part of the initial transitional measures, 30 of the original 60 Senators in 1922 were selected by the Dáil, of whom the last 15 to secure election formed the cohort whose term would end after the first triennial period.[1][3] As well as this cohort, four further Senators were required to vacate their seats: these had been temporarily co-opted to fill casual vacancies which had arisen in previous years.[4]


There were three methods of being included on the ballot. Outgoing Senators could nominate themselves for re-election,[5] and all 19 did so.[6] The Seanad could nominate an equal number of candidates, and the Dáil could nominate twice the number of vacancies.[5] Both Dáil and Seanad selections were by single transferable vote and secret ballot.[7] The minimum age for Senators was 35 years.[8]

The Seanad resolved on 30 April to form a committee to decide procedure for its nominations; the committee drafted a resolution in June,[9] which was amended and passed by the Seanad on 19 June.[10] 29 applicants contested the Seanad nominations on 1 July.[11][12][13] Apart from two Labour Party members, the candidates were Independents.[14] 47 of the 60 Senators voted, including 18 of the 19 who were themselves standing for re-election.[13] Donal O'Sullivan, clerk of the Seanad throughout its existence, suggests that these 18 had an incentive to vote for less popular candidates since the nominees would be rivals in the ensuing election.[15] O'Sullivan describes the results as "a very great disappointment ... the list [of successful candidates] could not compare with the list of the ten rejected."[13] Oliver St. John Gogarty made a similar remark in the Seanad itself after the results were announced.[16]

The rejected ten were: David Barry, general manager of the British and Irish Steam Packet Company; Sir Laurence Grattan Esmonde, brother of Senator Thomas Grattan Esmonde, Bart; Lady Gregory; John J. Horgan; Hugh A. Law; John McCann, a stockbroker; The McGillicuddy of the Reeks; William Lombard Murphy, son of William Martin Murphy and proprietor of the Irish Independent; Sir John Harley Scott, a Unionist former Mayor of Cork; and J.J. Stafford, a County Wexford businessman.[15][17]

Cumann na nGaedheal, the party which backed the incumbent government, decided not to formally support any candidates as a result of internal divisions. There was tension between ministers, backbenchers, and grassroots members, and between factions of Kevin O'Higgins and W. T. Cosgrave. The 1924 Army Mutiny had shaken the year-old party, and the appointment of public servants to lead the new state's institutions created resentment among those passed over. The parliamentary party held two selection conventions, on 2 and 6 July 1925, and when the leadership's candidates did badly a free vote was offered in the Dáil with all candidates nominally endorsed by the party.[18]

The Dáil nominations were decided on 8 July.[15][19] 57 candidates contested; 101 TDs voted, with one ballot deemed ineligible.[15][20] 52 TDs did not vote, including all 44 abstentionist Sinn Féin TDs, who were ineligible to vote as they had not taken the Oath of Allegiance.[21] TDs supported candidates on party lines.[14] Of the 38 successful nominees, O'Sullivan classifies 21 as supporters of the Cumann na nGaedheal Government, 9 as Independent, 5 as in the Farmers' Party, and 3 as in the Labour Party.[15] Four of the ten candidates rejected by the Seanad were also among the Dáil candidates, with John J. Horgan securing a nomination at the second attempt.[6]


While the Farmers' Party and Labour produced newspaper advertisements for their respective slates of candidates, Cumann na nGaedheal did not at a national level formally endorse candidates, even those its TDs had nominated.[22] It presented the election as nonpartisan.[23] It published a booklet, Who's who in the 1925 Senate Election, and did not oppose candidates "put forward by any of the elements that accept the State and Constitution", i.e. other than republicans opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty.[18]

Numerous interest groups produced lists of approved candidates, including doctors, publicans, motorists, ex-servicemen's associations, and the livestock trade.[24] Candidates endorsed by temperance groups fared badly.[23] The Catholic Truth Society circulated, to little effect,[25] a list of outgoing Senators it condemned for not having opposed a controversial motion pertaining to divorce.[26][27]

Sinn Féin, under the leadership of Éamon de Valera, called for a boycott of the election.[28] Sinn Féin had not boycotted the 1923 Dáil election, but rather contested it on an abstentionist platform. De Valera would later lead his Fianna Fáil party, founded in 1926, into the Oireachtas after the June 1927 Dáil election.


The election was by single transferable vote, with the entire Irish Free State forming a single, 19-seat constituency. All citizens over 30 had a vote. Since the voting age for Dáil and local elections was 21, a separate electoral roll was maintained for the Seanad election.[4]

The 76 candidates were arranged alphabetically on a ballot paper 22 inches (56 cm) long and 16 inches (41 cm) wide.[23] The Electoral (Seanad Elections) Act, 1925 was passed to allow the ballot to be presented as four parallel columns of 19 names rather than a single long column of all 76.[29][30]

The low voter turnout was blamed on the Sinn Féin boycott,[28][31] wet weather across the country,[23][28] and the shorter than usual hours of polling.[23] Turnout varied widely, from 8.2% in Mayo North to 43% in Monaghan.[23] Another factor was the large, intimidating ballot paper;[23] O'Sullivan describes it as "a fiasco",[28] saying it was unreasonable to expect voters to "make an intelligent choice of nineteen persons from a list containing seventy-six names, most of which they had never seen or heard of before."[32]


Party FP votes %
Cumann na nGaedheal supporters126,21841.3
Labour Party46,77615.3
Farmers' Party42,78514.0
Unknown affiliation24,6928.1
Spolit votes9,466
Source: Nohlen & Stöver[33]


The ballots were initially collected to one centre within each Dáil constituency to count and sort the first-preference votes.[4] This took almost a week.[23] On 25 September, the ballots were sent to Dublin, the totals checked centrally, and redistribution of transfers begun.[4][23] On 5 October, the first candidate was returned, on the 45th count.[23] Counting continued until 19 October.[23]


Although the election was national, many of the candidates relied on local support. 23 gained more than half their first preferences from their own constituency.[34]

Candidates of the two parties contesting the election, Labour and the Farmers', did relatively well.[35] Some interest groups also did well – vintners, ex-servicemen.[36][37] Others did not — doctors,[36] academics, women, and especially Irish language revivalists: all four candidates supported by the Gaelic League lost, including outgoing senator and future president Douglas Hyde.[37][38]

Ex-Unionist candidates did not fare well, even though the original design of the Seanad was intended in part to provide enhanced representation for the unionist minority.[39]

Results of the 1925 Seanad election[40]
Name County Occupation[r 1] Nomination First-preference
Final result Final count Party[r 2] Notes
Charles AustinGalwayDirector of various public companies and chairman of the Irish Branch of British Shareholders' TrustSeanad734Eliminated7Baron ffrench
Henry BarnivilleDublinSurgeonOutgoing8,279Elected w/o quota 65
Sir Edward BellinghamLouthBaronetSeanad8,043Elected65
Thomas Westropp BennettLimerickFarmerOutgoing7,117Elected w/o quota 65(pro-CnaG)
Sir Edward Coey BiggerDublinMedical DoctorSeanad5,658Elected w/o quota 65
P. J. BradyDublinSolicitorSeanad4,328Eliminated63
Samuel Lombard BrownDublinBarrister-at-lawOutgoing2,787Eliminated33
Kathleen BrowneWexfordFarmerSeanad2,044Eliminated25(pro-CnaG)Sought women's vote
Richard A. ButlerDublinFarmerOutgoing5,943Eliminated61Farmers' Party
Laurence Patrick ByrneDublinJournalistDáil1,612Eliminated20Labour PartyWrote under the pen name "Andrew E. Malone"
Francis CahillDublinTeacherDáil1,057Eliminated11(pro-CnaG)
Sir Arthur ChanceDublinSurgeonSeanad3,792Eliminated57
Walter L. ColeDublinFruit merchantSeanad1,393Eliminated19
John CounihanDublinFarmerOutgoing6,431Elected w/o quota 65(pro-CnaG)Supporter of livestock trade
George CrosbieCorkJournalistDáil2,056Eliminated32(pro-CnaG)
John Patrick CuffeDublinFarmerDáil3,180Eliminated35Supporter of livestock trade
William CumminsKildareNational school teacherOutgoing10,693Elected51Labour Party
Peter de LoughryKilkennyIron founder and manufacturerOutgoing5,938Eliminated60(pro-CnaG)
Liam de RóisteCorkSecretary-director of public companyDáil2,993Eliminated42(pro-CnaG)
James DillonKilkennyFarmerDáil7,499Elected62Farmers' Party
John Charles EasonDublinMerchantDáil2,621Eliminated30(pro-CnaG)Of Eason & Son newsagents.[41]
Michael FanningDublinGrocer and vintnerDáil9,024Elected w/o quota 65Licensed vintners' lobby
Darrell FiggisDublinAuthorDáil512Eliminated4Committed suicide on 27 October 1925
Edward John FitzgeraldCorkJoinerSeanad5,754Eliminated64Labour Party
Thomas ForanDublinTrade union officialOutgoing6,844Elected65Labour Party
John William GarveyDublinSolicitorDáil2,799Eliminated38
Henry HarrisonDublinJournalistDáil2,000Eliminated22(pro-CnaG)
Sir William Bernard HickieTipperaryMajor-General (retired)Dáil9,712Elected45Ex-servicemen's lobby
Patricia Ethel HoeyDublinJournalist and industrial organiserSeanad334Eliminated1Sought women's vote
Patrick HooperDublinJournalist and barrister-at-lawSeanad3,346Eliminated40
John J. HorganCorkSolicitorDáil2,037Eliminated23(pro-CnaG)
Denis HoustonDublinTrade union organiserDáil4,828Eliminated50Labour Party
Charles Howard-BuryWestmeathLt.-Colonel (retired)Seanad785Eliminated8Ex-servicemen's lobby
Douglas HydeDublinDean of the Celtic Faculty in the National University of IrelandOutgoing1,721Eliminated28(pro-CnaG)
Owen HynesDublinGeneral secretarySeanad1,273Eliminated18Labour Party
Cornelius IrwinWexfordFarmer and businessmanOutgoing2,884Eliminated37(pro-CnaG)
Joseph JohnstonDublinFellow and tutor of Trinity CollegeDáil1,168Eliminated14(pro-CnaG)
Michael JordanWexfordFarmerDáil4,777Eliminated49Farmers' Party
Cornelius KennedyWicklowMerchant and farmerDáil11,857Elected54(pro-CnaG)Licensed vintners' lobby
Denis KennedyDublinSurgeonDáil3,202Eliminated36(pro-CnaG)Hospitals' lobby
Thomas LinehanCorkFarmerOutgoing6,624Elected w/o quota 65Farmers' Party
Joseph Clayton LoveCorkMerchantOutgoing2,249Eliminated27(pro-CnaG)
Anthony MacBrideMayoSurgeonDáil2,059Eliminated26(pro-CnaG)
Alexander McCabeDublinEstate agentDáil4,034Eliminated46
Patrick McCartanDublinSurgeonSeanad626Eliminated5
Seaghán Pádhraic MacEnriGalwayMedical doctor and university professor[r 3]Dáil1,636Eliminated21(pro-CnaG)
Edward MacEvoyLaoisWholesale merchantOutgoing5,423Eliminated56(pro-CnaG)
Francis McGuinnessLongfordMerchantDáil7,662Elected w/o quota 65(pro-CnaG)
Thomas Patrick McKennaCavanFarmerDáil5,768Eliminated55(pro-CnaG)
Edward Patrick McLoughlinDublinMedical professionDáil1,183Eliminated15(pro-CnaG)
Edward MacLysaghtClareProprietor of the Raheen Rural IndustriesOutgoing4,025Eliminated48
Valentine McSwiney, Marquis of MashanaglassDublinGentlemanDáil789Eliminated9(pro-CnaG)Created a marquis in the Papal nobility by pope Leo XIII.[42]
Jeremiah McVeaghDublinBarrister-at-lawDáil3,601Eliminated43
Sir Simon William MaddockDublinSecretary and director of public companiesDáil3,876Eliminated44Business candidate
Seán MilroyDublinJournalistDáil1,697Eliminated24(pro-CnaG)
Mary Josephine MulcahyDublinMarried womanSeanad2,659Eliminated39Wife of Richard Mulcahy, and sister of James Ryan
Daniel NealonTipperaryNational school teacher (retired)Dáil1,278Eliminated16
George NesbittDublinMerchant and manufacturerOutgoing1,210Eliminated17(pro-CnaG)
Liam Ó BriainGalwayProfessor of Romance Languages in University College GalwaySeanad1,056Eliminated13
Conor O'BrienDublinArchitectSeanad497Eliminated3
Joseph O'ConnorKildareCattle salesman and farmerDáil6,740Elected w/o quota 65(pro-CnaG)Supporter of livestock trade
Michael O'DeaDublinMerchantOutgoing4,011Eliminated58(pro-CnaG)
J. T. O'FarrellDublinIrish Secretary Railway Clerks' AssociationOutgoing12,336Elected51Labour PartyRailwaymen's candidate
Ristéard Ó FoghludhaDublinManager[r 4]Dáil660Eliminated6(pro-CnaG)
Michael F. O'HanlonDublinGeneral secretaryDáil8,238Elected59Farmers' Party
Stephen O'Mara, Snr LimerickMerchantDáil6,205Elected w/o quota 65(pro-CnaG)
Sean Ó MuirthileDublinGentlemanDáil1,022Eliminated10(pro-CnaG)
John O'NeillWicklowCycle manufacturer and motor traderOutgoing2,448Eliminated31(pro-CnaG)
James ParkinsonKildareVeterinary surgeon and bloodstock breederOutgoing6,248Elected w/o quota 65(pro-CnaG)
Patrick PhelanKildareFarmerDáil5,423Eliminated53Farmers' Party
John Henry PigotDublinBarrister-at-lawSeanad413Eliminated2
John RyanLimerickFarmerDáil4,281Eliminated41Farmers' Party
Thomas RyanWaterfordInsurance agentDáil3,436Eliminated34Labour Party
Michael StainesDublinWholesale merchantSeanad2,028Eliminated29
Frederick SummerfieldDublinManaging directorSeanad1,123Eliminated12Motorists' lobby
Thomas ToalMonaghanFarmerDáil14,082Elected47(pro-CnaG)


  1. As listed on the official notice of election
  2. (pro-CnaG) indicates candidates identified by Coakley as unofficially pro-Cumann na nGaedheal
  3. In Irish: "Dochtúir leighis agus ollamh ollsgoile"
  4. In Irish: "Bainisteoird"


The shortcomings of the 1925 election created a consensus that a single national constituency was unworkable.[43] In 1928, in the lead-up to the next triennial Seanad election, the Oireachtas formed a joint committee to change the selection procedures.[43][44] While some members favoured retaining some form of voting by the general electorate, Fianna Fáil in particular wanted to ensure the Seanad was subordinate to the Dáil by restricting the franchise to Oireachtas members.[45] This was effected by a constitutional amendment enacted on 23 July and an electoral act on 25 October.[29][46][47] Thus, the 1925 election remains the only Seanad popular election.[48]

See also



  • Coakley, John (September 2005). "Ireland's Unique Electoral Experiment: The Senate Election of 1925". Irish Political Studies. 20 (3): 231–269. doi:10.1080/07907180500359327.
  • O'Sullivan, Donal (1940). The Irish Free State and its Senate: A Study in Contemporary Politics. London: Faber & Faber. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  • "Constitution of The Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann)". Irish Statute Book. Office of the Attorney General of Ireland. 1922. Retrieved 30 October 2008.


  1. Coakley, p.233
  2. Constitution of The Irish Free State: Articles 31 & 32
  3. Constitution of The Irish Free State: Article 82 §§ (a), (c), & (e)
  4. Coakley, p.234
  5. Constitution of The Irish Free State: Article 33
  6. Coakley, p.237
  7. O'Sullivan, pp.151–52
  8. Coakley, p.232
  9. "Report". Committee on Procedure for the Triennial Election. Seanad. 16 June 1925. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  10. Seanad debates Vol.5 No.10 p.5
  11. "Panel for triennial election". Parliamentary Debates - Seanad Éireann. 1 July 1925. Vol.5 No.13 p.4 cc.768–771. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  12. "Seanad - selection of panel". Parliamentary Debates - Seanad Éireann. 1 July 1925. Vol.5 No.13 p.7 c.782. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  13. O'Sullivan, p.153
  14. Coakley, p.236
  15. O'Sullivan, p.154
  16. Gogarty, Oliver St. John (7 July 1925). "Seanad Elections". Parliamentary Debates - Seanad Éireann. Vol.5 No.15 p.3 cc.865–66. Retrieved 29 October 2015. Reading the list of Senators who have been rejected, they are, if anything, a few points better than those who have been successful.
  17. "A Small List". Irish Independent. 27 June 1925. p. 7.
  18. Regan, John M. (1999). The Irish Counter-revolution, 1921-1936: Treatyite Politics and Settlement in Independent Ireland. Gill & Macmillan. pp. 249–250. ISBN 9780717128853.
  19. "Selection of Dáil panel for Seanad election". Parliamentary Debates - Dáil Éireann. 8 July 1925. Vol.12 No.21 p.5 cc.2161–62. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  20. "Announcement of results". Parliamentary Debates - Dáil Éireann. 8 July 1925. Vol.12 No.21 p.5 cc.2162–64. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  21. "Dáil in Committee - Election of Seanad members". Parliamentary Debates - Dáil Éireann. 19 June 1925. Vol.12 No.12 p.10 cc.1314–48. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  22. Coakley, p.242
  23. Coakley, p.244
  24. Coakley, p.242–43
  25. O'Sullivan, p.170–71
  26. Coakley, p.243
  27. "Seanad Resumes - Debate on divorce legislation resumed". Parliamentary Debates - Seanad Éireann. 11 June 1925. Vol.5 No.7 p.10 cc.434–482. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  28. O'Sullivan, p.155
  29. Coakley, p.235
  30. "Electoral (Seanad Elections) Act, 1925 §3: Form of ballot papers". Acts of the Oireachtas. Government of Ireland. 11 July 1925. Retrieved 23 October 2008.
  31. Coakley, p.245
  32. O'Sullivan, pp.144–145
  33. Dieter Nohlen & Philip Stöver (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, p1016 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
  34. Coakley, p.250
  35. Coakley, p.247
  36. Coakley, p.248
  37. O'Sullivan, p.156
  38. Coakley, p.249
  39. Coakley, p.256
  40. Coakley, pp.261–68
  41. Rankin, Kieran; Paul Sweeney; Bill Keating (April 2014). "Biographical Portraits of the Past Presidents of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland" (PDF). Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland. p. 31. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  42. "Estate Record: McSweeney/MacSwiney (Cork)". Landed Estates Database. NUI Galway. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  43. O'Sullivan, p.231
  44. Oireachtas joint committee on the Constitution (16 May 1928). "Report into the constitution and powers of, and methods of election to, Seanad Éireann". Committee Reports. Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  45. O'Sullivan, pp.232–34
  46. "Constitution (Amendment No. 6) Act, 1928". Acts of the Oireachtas. Government of Ireland. 23 July 1928. Retrieved 30 October 2008.
  47. "Seanad Electoral Act, 1928". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  48. Coakley, p.231–32
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