1987 Irish general election

The 1987 Irish general election was held on 17 February 1987, four weeks after the dissolution of the Dáil on 20 January. The newly elected 166 members of the 25th Dáil assembled at Leinster House on 10 March when a new Taoiseach and a Fianna Fáil minority government were appointed.

1987 Irish general election

17 February 1987

165 of 166 seats in Dáil Éireann
84 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Charles Haughey Garret FitzGerald Desmond O'Malley
Party Fianna Fáil Fine Gael Progressive Democrats
Leader since 7 December 1979 1977 21 December 1985
Leader's seat Dublin North-Central Dublin South-East Limerick East
Last election 75 seats, 45.2% 70 seats, 39.2% Did not stand
Seats before 71 69 5
Seats won 81 51 14
Seat change 6 19 14
Popular vote 784,547 481,127 210,583
Percentage 44.2% 27.1% 11.9%
Swing 1.0% 12.1% New party

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
Leader Dick Spring Tomás Mac Giolla Jim Kemmy
Party Labour Party Workers' Party Democratic Socialist
Leader since November 1982 1977 1982
Leader's seat Kerry North Dublin West Limerick East
Last election 16 seats, 9.4% 2 seats, 3.3% 0 seats, 0.4%
Seats before 16 2 0
Seats won 12 4 1
Seat change 4 2 1
Popular vote 114,551 67,293 7,424
Percentage 6.5% 3.8% 0.4%
Swing 2.9% 0.5%

Percentage of seats gained by each of the five biggest parties, and number of seats gained by smaller parties and independents.

Taoiseach before election

Garret FitzGerald
Fine Gael

Subsequent Taoiseach

Charles Haughey
Fianna Fáil

The general election took place in 41 parliamentary constituencies throughout Ireland for 166 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann.


The general election of 1987 was precipitated by the withdrawal of the Labour Party from the Fine Gael-led government on 20 January 1987. The reason was a disagreement over budget proposals. Rather than attempt to press on with the government's agenda, the Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael, Garret FitzGerald, decided to dissolve the Dáil. An unusually long period of four weeks was set for the campaign. It was hoped that the electorate would warm to Fine Gael's budget proposals during the campaign.

Fianna Fáil's campaign involved a refusal to make any definite commitments; however, it attempted to convince the electorate that the country would be better under Fianna Fáil. Charles Haughey's attitudes toward Northern Ireland and the Anglo-Irish Agreement were both attacked.[1] However, the campaign was mostly fought on economic issues.

The Labour Party decided against any pre-election pact, particularly with Fine Gael. The Progressive Democrats (PD), founded only two years earlier, surpassed Labour as the third-biggest political party in the Dáil. Although the majority of the PD party consisted of Fianna Fáil defectors, it mainly took seats from Fine Gael.


25th Irish general election 17 February 1987[2][3][4]
Party Leader Seats ± % of
First Pref
% FPv ±%
Fianna Fáil Charles Haughey 81 6 48.8 784,547 44.1 1.1
Fine Gael Garret FitzGerald 51 19 30.1 481,127 27.1 12.1
Progressive Democrats Desmond O'Malley 14 14 8.4 210,583 11.8
Labour Party Dick Spring 12 4 7.2 114,551 6.4 3.0
Workers' Party Tomás Mac Giolla 4 2 2.4 67,273 3.8 0.5
Sinn Féin Gerry Adams 0 New 0 32,933 1.9
Democratic Socialist Jim Kemmy 1 1 0.6 7,424 0.4 0
Green Alliance None 0 0 0 7,159 0.4 0.2
Communist Party Eugene McCartan 0 0 0 725 0.0 0
Independent N/A 3 1 1.8 70,843 4.0 1.7
Spoilt votes 16,241
Total 166 0 100 1,793,406 100
Electorate/Turnout 2,445,515 73.3%

Independents include Independent Fianna Fáil (7,720 votes, 1 seat) and the Tax Reform League (3,832 votes).

  • Fianna Fáil minority government formed.
Changes in numbers of seats for each party are shown relative to the previous election in November 1982.
During the previous Dáil, 4 Fianna Fáil TDs and 1 Fine Gael TD had joined the Progressive Democrats.

In spite of the opinion polls suggesting otherwise, Fianna Fáil once again failed to win an overall majority. However, it was able to form a minority government and Charles Haughey was back for his third and final spell as Taoiseach. The Fianna Fáil government of 1987 to 1989 was the last time to date that a government composed only of members of one party has been formed in Ireland. The Progressive Democrats did exceptionally well in their first general election, becoming the third-biggest party in the Dáil. Fine Gael lost many seats, mostly to the PDs. The Labour Party failed to make any impact; its leader Dick Spring almost lost his seat.

Voting summary

First preference vote
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Progressive Democrats
Sinn Féin

Seats summary

Assembly seats
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Progressive Democrats
Democratic Socialist

Dáil membership changes

The following changes took place as a result of the election:

  • 17 outgoing TDs retired
  • 1 vacant seat at election time
  • 147 outgoing TDs stood for re-election (also Tom Fitzpatrick, the outgoing Ceann Comhairle, who was automatically returned)
    • 127 of those were re-elected
    • 20 failed to be re-elected
  • 38 successor TDs were elected
    • 32 were elected for the first time
    • 6 had previously been TDs
  • There were 6 successor female TDs, with the total remaining unchanged at 14
  • There were changes in 32 of the 41 constituencies contested

Where more than one change took place in a constituency, the concept of successor is an approximation for presentation only.

Constituency Departing TD Party Change Comment Successor TD Party
Carlow–Kilkenny Dick Dowling Fine Gael Retired Martin Gibbons Progressive Democrats
Cavan–Monaghan John Conlan Fine Gael Lost seat Andrew Boylan Fine Gael
Clare Sylvester Barrett Fianna Fáil Retired De Valera – former TD Síle de Valera Fianna Fáil
Cork East Myra Barry Fine Gael Retired Sherlock – former TD Joe Sherlock Workers' Party
Cork North-Central Toddy O'Sullivan Labour Party Moved O'Sullivan moved to Cork South-Central Máirín Quill Progressive Democrats
Cork North-West No membership changes
Cork South-Central Gene Fitzgerald Fianna Fáil Retired John Dennehy Fianna Fáil
Hugh Coveney Fine Gael Lost seat Batt O'Keeffe Fianna Fáil
Eileen Desmond Labour Party Retired O'Sullivan moved from Cork North-Central Toddy O'Sullivan Labour Party
Cork South-West No membership changes
Donegal North-East No membership changes
Donegal South-West Cathal Coughlan Fianna Fáil Vacant[5] Mary Coughlan Fianna Fáil
Dublin Central Tom Leonard Fianna Fáil Retired Dermot Fitzpatrick Fianna Fáil
Alice Glenn Independent Lost seat Glenn was elected as an FG TD in 1982 John Stafford Fianna Fáil
Dublin North Nora Owen Fine Gael Lost seat G. V. Wright Fianna Fáil
Dublin North-Central No membership changes
Dublin North-East Maurice Manning Fine Gael Lost seat Pat McCartan Workers' Party
Dublin North-West No membership changes
Dublin South Nuala Fennell Fine Gael Lost seat Anne Colley Progressive Democrats
Niall Andrews Fianna Fáil Retired Tom Kitt Fianna Fáil
Dublin South-Central John O'Connell Fianna Fáil Lost seat Mary Mooney Fianna Fáil
Dublin South-East Joe Doyle Fine Gael Lost seat Michael McDowell Progressive Democrats
Dublin South-West Michael O'Leary Fine Gael Retired Chris Flood Fianna Fáil
Dublin West Liam Skelly Fine Gael Lost seat Patrick O'Malley Progressive Democrats
Eileen Lemass Fianna Fáil Retired Lawlor – former TD Liam Lawlor Fianna Fáil
Dún Laoghaire Liam T. Cosgrave Fine Gael Lost seat Geraldine Kennedy Progressive Democrats
Galway East No membership changes
Galway West Fintan Coogan Jnr Fine Gael Lost seat Higgins – former TD Michael D. Higgins Labour Party
Kerry North Tom McEllistrim Fianna Fáil Lost seat Jimmy Deenihan Fine Gael
Kerry South Michael Moynihan Labour Party Lost seat John O'Donoghue Fianna Fáil
Kildare Joseph Bermingham Labour Party Retired Emmet Stagg Labour Party
Laois–Offaly Oliver J. Flanagan Fine Gael Retired Son of outgoing TD Charles Flanagan Fine Gael
Limerick East Tom O'Donnell Fine Gael Lost seat Clohessy – former TD Peadar Clohessy Progressive Democrats
Frank Prendergast Labour Party Lost seat Kemmy – former TD Jim Kemmy Democratic Socialist Party
Limerick West William O'Brien Fine Gael Retired John McCoy Progressive Democrats
Longford–Westmeath Gerry L'Estrange Fine Gael Retired Henry Abbott Fianna Fáil
Louth Pádraig Faulkner Fianna Fáil Retired Dermot Ahern Fianna Fáil
Mayo East No membership changes
Mayo West Paddy O'Toole Fine Gael Lost seat Jim Higgins Fine Gael
Meath Jim Fitzsimons Fianna Fáil Retired Noel Dempsey Fianna Fáil
Roscommon No membership changes
Sligo–Leitrim Joe McCartin Fine Gael Lost seat John Ellis Fianna Fáil
Tipperary North David Molony Fine Gael Retired Michael Lowry Fine Gael
Tipperary South No membership changes
Waterford Edward Collins Fine Gael Lost seat Martin Cullen Progressive Democrats
Donal Ormonde Fianna Fáil Lost seat Brian Swift Fianna Fáil
Wexford Michael D'Arcy Fine Gael Lost seat Brendan Howlin Labour Party
Wicklow Godfrey Timmins Fine Gael Lost seat Joe Jacob Fianna Fáil
Paudge Brennan Fianna Fáil Retired Dick Roche Fianna Fáil

See also


  1. Kenny, Shane and Keane, Fergal, Irish Politics Now: 'This Week' Guide to the 25th Dáil, Dingle, Co. Kerry: Brandon/RTÉ, 1987, p. 37
  2. "25th Dáil 1987 General Election". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 11 July 2009.
  3. "Dáil elections since 1918". ARK Northern Ireland. Retrieved 11 July 2009.
  4. Nohlen, Dieter; Stöver, Philip (2010). Elections in Europe: A Data Handbook. Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft Mbh & Company. ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7.
  5. Cathal Coughlan died in 1986 but no by-election was held.
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