1997 Irish general election

The 1997 Irish general election was held on Friday 6 June 1997. The 166 newly elected members of the 28th Dáil assembled on 26 June 1997 when a new Taoiseach and government were appointed.

1997 Irish general election

6 June 1997

165 of 166 seats in Dáil Éireann
84 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Bertie Ahern John Bruton Dick Spring
Party Fianna Fáil Fine Gael Labour Party
Leader since 19 December 1994 20 November 1990 November 1982
Leader's seat Dublin Central Meath Kerry North
Last election 68 seats, 39.1% 45 seats, 24.5% 33 seats, 19.9%
Seats before 67 47 32
Seats won 77 54 17
Seat change 10 7 15
Popular vote 703,700 499,900 186,000
Percentage 39.3% 27.9% 10.4%
Swing 0.2% 3.4% 8.9%

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
Leader Mary Harney Proinsias De Rossa
Party Progressive Democrats Democratic Left Green Party
Leader since 12 October 1993 1992
Leader's seat Dublin South-West Dublin North-West
Last election 10 seats, 4.7% 4 seats, 2.8% 1 seat, 1.4%
Seats before 9 6 1
Seats won 4 4 2
Seat change 5 2 1
Popular vote 83,800 44,900 49,300
Percentage 4.7% 2.5% 2.8%
Swing 0.0% 0.3% 1.4%

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

Taoiseach before election

John Bruton
Fine Gael

Subsequent Taoiseach

Bertie Ahern
Fianna Fáil

The general election took place in 41 parliamentary constituencies throughout Ireland for 165 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann.


The 1997 general election saw the public offered a choice of two possible coalitions. The existing government was a coalition of Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Democratic Left – the so-called "Rainbow Coalition". This in very broad terms could be described as a centre-left coalition. It was opposed by a possible coalition of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, which most Irish commentators regarded as a centre-right coalition.

Following the election none of the major parties had a clear majority. Negotiations resulted in a Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats coalition taking office. Four Independent Teachta Dála (TDs) also supported the government ensuring an overall majority. Bertie Ahern became the Taoiseach while Mary Harney of the Progressive Democrats became Tánaiste.

Although Fine Gael gained seats, it crossed the Dáil chamber to the Opposition benches. Fianna Fáil also increased its representation, but the Progressive Democrats had a disastrous election, losing more than half their seats – including ones thought safe such as Cork North-Central and Dún Laoghaire, despite no decrease in their vote. The Green Party picked up an extra seat, with John Gormley elected in Dublin South-East. He was elected by just over 30 votes after a marathon recount, lasting four days, saw Progressive Democrat Michael McDowell defeated. The main feature of the election, however, was the collapse of the Labour Party vote. Not only did it lose seats it had picked up in the 1992 general election, when its vote was an at all-time high – such as in Clare and Laois–Offaly – but it also lost reasonably safe seats, such as in Dublin North, Dublin Central and Cork South-Central.

Dick Spring would later retire as leader of the Labour Party. Democratic Left also suffered, losing its two gains made in by-elections during the 27th Dáil. Sinn Féin won a seat for the first time since 1957, in the Cavan–Monaghan constituency with the election of Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. It also narrowly missed a seat in Kerry North. The Socialist Party, a Trotskyist party which consisted of former members of the Labour Party expelled in 1989, gained a seat in the Dublin West constituency.


Party Fianna Fáil Fine Gael Labour Party Progressive Democrats Green Party Sinn Féin Democratic Left Socialist Party
Leader Bertie Ahern John Bruton Dick Spring Mary Harney Gerry Adams Proinsias De Rossa Joe Higgins
Votes 39.3%, 703,682 27.9%, 499,936 10.4%, 186,044 4.7%, 83,765 2.8%, 49,323 2.5%, 45,614 2.5%, 44,901 0.7%, 12,445
Seats 77 (46.4%) 54 (32.5%) 17 (10.2%) 4 (2.4%) 2 (1.2%) 1 (0.6%) 4 (2.4%) 1 (0.6%)
77 4 6 54 17 4
Fianna Fáil PD Inds Fine Gael Labour DL

Vote Share of different parties in the election.

  Fianna Fáil (39.3%)
  Fine Gael (27.9%)
  Labour Party (10.4%)
  Green Party (2.8%)
  Sinn Féin (2.5%)
  Democratic Left (2.5%)
  National Party (1.1%)
  Socialist Party (0.6%)
  Other (8.2%)
28th Irish general election 6 June 1997[1][2]
Party Leader Seats ± % of
First Pref
% FPv ±%
Fianna Fáil Bertie Ahern 77 10 46.4 703,682 39.3 0.2
Fine Gael John Bruton 54 9 32.5 499,936 27.9 3.4
Labour Party Dick Spring 17 16 10.2 186,044 10.4 8.9
Progressive Democrats Mary Harney 4 6 2.4 83,765 4.7 ±0.0
Green Party 2 1 1.2 49,323 2.8 1.4
Sinn Féin Gerry Adams[3] 1 1 0.6 45,614 2.5 0.9
Democratic Left Proinsias De Rossa 4 0 2.4 44,901 2.5 0.3
National Party Nora Bennis 0 New 0 19,077 1.1 New
Socialist Party Joe Higgins 1 New 0.6 12,445 0.7 New
Christian Solidarity Gerard Casey 0 New 0 8,357 0.5 New
Workers' Party Tom French 0 0 0 7,808 0.4 0.3
Socialist Workers N/A 0 New 0 2,028 0.1 New
Natural Law Party N/A 0 New 0 1,515 0.1 New
South Kerry Independent 0 New 0 1,388 0.1 New
Independent N/A 6 2 3.6 123,102 7.9 1.1
Spoilt votes 17,947
Total 166 0 100 1,806,932 100
Electorate/Turnout 2,741,262 65.9%
  • Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats minority coalition government formed.

The outgoing Ceann Comhairle retired at this election. Independents include Independent Fianna Fáil (11,607 votes, 1 seat).

Voting summary

First preference vote
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Progressive Democrats
Sinn Féin
Democratic Left

Seats summary

Assembly seats
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Progressive Democrats
Democratic Left
Sinn Féin

Dáil membership changes

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

  • 17 outgoing TDs retired, including the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Treacy
  • 149 TDs stood for re-election
    • 121 were re-elected
    • 28 failed to be re-elected
  • 45 successor TDs were elected
    • 32 were elected for the first time
    • 13 had previously been TDs
  • There were 6 successor female TDs, replacing 9 outgoing, decreasing the total number by 3 to 20
  • There were changes in 34 of the 41 constituencies contested

Outgoing TDs are listed in the constituency they constested in the election. For some, such as Kildare North, this differs from the constituency they represented in the outgoing Dáil. 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 M. J. Nolan Fianna Fáil Lost seat John McGuinness Fianna Fáil
Cavan–Monaghan Jimmy Leonard Fianna Fáil Retired Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Sinn Féin
Clare Moosajee Bhamjee Labour Party Retired Daly – Former TD Brendan Daly Fianna Fáil
Cork East John Mulvihill Labour Party Lost seat David Stanton Fine Gael
Cork North-Central Kathleen Lynch Democratic Left Lost seat Noel O'Flynn Fianna Fáil
Máirín Quill Progressive Democrats Lost seat Billy Kelleher Fianna Fáil
Cork North-West Frank Crowley Fine Gael Lost seat Michael Moynihan Fianna Fáil
Cork South-Central Peter Barry Fine Gael Retired Deirdre Clune Fine Gael
Toddy O'Sullivan Labour Party Lost seat Dennehy – Former TD John Dennehy Fianna Fáil
Cork South-West No membership changes
Donegal North-East Paddy Harte Fine Gael Lost seat Harry Blaney Ind. Fianna Fáil
Donegal South-West Pat "the Cope" Gallagher Fianna Fáil Retired Tom Gildea Independent
Dublin Central Joe Costello Labour Party Lost seat Marian McGennis Fianna Fáil
Dublin North Seán Ryan Labour Party Lost seat Wright – Former TD G. V. Wright Fianna Fáil
Dublin North-Central No membership changes
Dublin North-East Seán Kenny Labour Party Lost seat Cosgrave – Former TD Michael Joe Cosgrave Fine Gael
Liam Fitzgerald Fianna Fáil Lost seat Martin Brady Fianna Fáil
Dublin North-West Mary Flaherty Fine Gael Lost seat Pat Carey Fianna Fáil
Dublin South Eithne FitzGerald Labour Party Lost seat Olivia Mitchell Fine Gael
Dublin South-Central Eric Byrne Democratic Left Lost seat Seán Ardagh Fianna Fáil
Dublin South-East Michael McDowell Progressive Democrats Lost seat John Gormley Green Party
Dublin South-West Eamonn Walsh Labour Party Lost seat Conor Lenihan Fianna Fáil
Mervyn Taylor Labour Party Retired Brian Hayes Fine Gael
Dublin West Joan Burton Labour Party Lost seat Joe Higgins Socialist Party
Dún Laoghaire Niamh Bhreathnach Labour Party Lost seat Mary Hanafin Fianna Fáil
Helen Keogh Progressive Democrats Lost seat Barnes – Former TD Monica Barnes Fine Gael
Galway East New seat Ulick Burke Fine Gael
Galway West Máire Geoghegan-Quinn Fianna Fáil Retired Fahey – Former TD Frank Fahey Fianna Fáil
Kerry North No membership changes
Kerry South John O'Leary Fianna Fáil Retired Jackie Healy-Rae Independent
Kildare North No membership changes
Kildare South New constituency, new seat Jack Wall Labour Party
Laois–Offaly Liam Hyland Fianna Fáil Retired Seán Fleming Fianna Fáil
Pat Gallagher Labour Party Lost seat Enright – Former TD Tom Enright Fine Gael
Ger Connolly Fianna Fáil Retired John Moloney Fianna Fáil
Limerick East Peadar Clohessy Progressive Democrats Retired Eddie Wade Fianna Fáil
Limerick West Gerry Collins Fianna Fáil Retired Michael Collins Fianna Fáil
Michael J. Noonan Fianna Fáil Retired Dan Neville Fine Gael
Longford–Roscommon John Connor Fine Gael Lost seat Denis Naughten Fine Gael
Tom Foxe Independent Lost seat Belton – Former TD Louis Belton Fine Gael
Louth No membership changes
Mayo P. J. Morley Fianna Fáil Lost seat Beverley Flynn Fianna Fáil
Séamus Hughes Fianna Fáil Lost seat Constituency reduced to 5 seats
Meath Colm Hilliard Fianna Fáil Retired Johnny Brady Fianna Fáil
Brian Fitzgerald Labour Party Lost seat Farrelly – Former TD John V. Farrelly Fine Gael
Sligo–Leitrim Ted Nealon Fine Gael Retired John Perry Fine Gael
Declan Bree Labour Party Lost seat Reynolds – Former TD Gerry Reynolds Fine Gael
Tipperary North John Ryan Labour Party Retired O'Kennedy – Former TD Michael O'Kennedy Fianna Fáil
Tipperary South Seán Treacy Labour Party Retired Constituency seats from 4 to 3
Waterford No membership changes
Westmeath No membership changes
Wexford Avril Doyle Fine Gael Lost seat D'Arcy – Former TD Michael D'Arcy Fine Gael
Wicklow Godfrey Timmins Fine Gael Retired Billy Timmins Fine Gael
Liam Kavanagh Labour Party Lost seat Roche – Former TD Dick Roche Fianna Fáil

See also


  1. "28th Dáil – General Election: 6 June 1997". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  2. Dieter Nohlen & Philip Stöver (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, pp1009-1017 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
  3. After the election, while Gerry Adams was leader of the Sinn Féin party, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin became leader (indeed, sole member) of the Sinn Féin parliamentary party.
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