1973 Irish general election

The 1973 Irish general election was held on 28 February 1973. The newly elected 144 members of the 20th Dáil assembled at Leinster House on 4 March when the new Taoiseach and government were appointed.

1973 Irish general election

28 February 1973

143 of 144 seats in Dáil Éireann
73 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Jack Lynch Liam Cosgrave Brendan Corish
Party Fianna Fáil Fine Gael Labour Party
Leader since 9 November 1966 1965 1960
Leader's seat Cork City North-West Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown Wexford
Last election 75 seats, 45.7% 50 seats, 34.1% 18 seats, 17.0%
Seats before 74 51 17
Seats won 69 54 19
Seat change 6 3 2
Percentage 46.2% 35.1% 13.7%
Swing 0.5% 1.0% 3.3%

Percentage of seats gained by each of the three major parties, and number of seats gained by smaller parties and independents.

Taoiseach before election

Jack Lynch
Fianna Fáil

Subsequent Taoiseach

Liam Cosgrave
Fine Gael

The general election took place in 42 parliamentary constituencies throughout Ireland for 144 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann.


By the time the general election was called in 1973, Fianna Fáil had been in power for almost sixteen consecutive years. During that time the party had seen three different leaders: Éamon de Valera, Seán Lemass, and since 1966, Jack Lynch. As a result of this, much of the electorate believed it was time for a change of government. Lynch had hoped to dissolve the Dáil in December 1972; however, events did not permit this, and the election was eventually called for February 1973.

While Fine Gael and the Labour Party had pursued individual opposition policies since 1957, they now realised that the only way to oust Fianna Fáil would be to join forces. Not long after the general election was called, both parties agreed to a pre-election pact to fight the election together on the issues that united them. The National Coalition, as it was known, offered the electorate the first credible alternative government in many years.

While Fianna Fáil actually increased its percentage of the vote, it lost seats. The increase in the percentage was remarkable considering the party had been in power for so long, and also because of the "Arms Crisis". A clever use of transfers between the National Coalition parties in the single transferable vote system enabled a change of government to take place.

Coverage of the general election by the national broadcaster, Radio Telefís Éireann, also saw a unique event. Jack Lynch, in an interview with Brian Farrell on the programme, became the first Taoiseach to concede defeat live on Irish television. Although the full result was not yet known, Lynch was certain that the transfers between candidates would result in Fianna Fáil losing the general election.

Court case

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, approved in a referendum in December 1972 and signed into law in January 1973, had reduced the voting age from 21 to 18.[1][2] However, the electoral register would not be updated until 15 April, five weeks after the election date.[1][3] A 20-year-old student, represented by Seán MacBride, asked the High Court to postpone the election to vindicate his right to vote.[1] He lost his case, although he was awarded his costs due to its "public importance".[1]


20th Irish general election 28 February 1973[4][5][6]
Party Leader Seats ± % of
First Pref
% FPv ±%
Fianna Fáil Jack Lynch 69 –6 47.9 624,528 46.2 +1.5
Fine Gael Liam Cosgrave 54 +4 37.5 473,781 35.1 +1.0
Labour Party Brendan Corish 19 +1 13.2 184,656 13.7 –3.3
Sinn Féin (Official) Tomás Mac Giolla 0 New 0 15,366 1.1
Aontacht Éireann Kevin Boland 0 New 0 12,321 0.9
Communist Party 0 0 0 466 0.0
Independent N/A 2 +1 1.4 39,419 2.9 –0.3
Spoilt votes 15,937
Total 144 0 100 1,366,474 100
Electorate/Turnout 1,783,604 76.6%
  • Fine Gael–Labour Party coalition government formed.

Voting summary

First preference vote
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Sinn Féin (Official)
Aontacht Éireann

Seats summary

Assembly seats
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael

First-time TDs

The following 22 TDs were elected for the first time:


Outgoing TDs

See also


  1. Ferriter, Diarmaid (1 November 2012). Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s. Profile Books. pp. 94–95. ISBN 9781847658562. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  2. "Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1972". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  3. "S.I. No. 169/1963 – Registration of Electors and Juries Acts (Specification of Dates) Regulations, 1963". Irish Statute Book. §4(3). Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  4. "20th Dáil 1973 General Election". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 18 June 2009.
  5. "Dáil elections since 1918". ARK Northern Ireland. Retrieved 18 June 2009.
  6. Dieter Nohlen & Philip Stöver (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, pp1009-1017 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
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