2002 Irish general election

The 2002 Irish general election was held on Friday, 17 May 2002 just over three weeks after the dissolution of the 28th Dáil on Thursday 25 April by President Mary McAleese, at the request of the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. The newly elected members of the 29th Dáil assembled on Thursday 6 June 2002.

2002 Irish general election

17 May 2002

165 of 166 seats in Dáil Éireann
84 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Bertie Ahern Michael Noonan Ruairi Quinn
Party Fianna Fáil Fine Gael Labour Party
Leader since 19 December 1994 9 February 2001 November 1997
Leader's seat Dublin Central Limerick East Dublin South-East
Last election 77 seats, 39.3% 54 seats, 27.9% 17 seats, 12.9%
Seats before 73 54 21
Seats won 81 31 20
Seat change 8 23 1
Popular vote 770,748 417,619 200,130
Percentage 41.5% 22.5% 10.8%
Swing 2.2% 5.4% 2.1%

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
Leader Mary Harney Trevor Sargent Gerry Adams
Party Progressive Democrats Green Party Sinn Féin
Leader since 12 October 1993 6 October 2001 13 November 1983
Leader's seat Dublin South-West Dublin North N/A
Last election 4 seats, 4.7% 2 seats, 2.8% 1 seat, 2.6%
Seats before 4 2 1
Seats won 8 6 5
Seat change 4 4 4
Popular vote 73,628 71,470 121,020
Percentage 4.0% 3.8% 6.5%
Swing 0.7% 1.0% 3.9%

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

Taoiseach before election

Bertie Ahern
Fianna Fáil

Subsequent Taoiseach

Bertie Ahern
Fianna Fáil

The general election took place in 42 parliamentary constituencies throughout Ireland for 165 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann.


The general election was significant for a number of reasons:

  • The election was considered a success for Fianna Fáil, with the party coming within a handful of seats from achieving an overall majority (the nearest the country came to a one party majority government since 1987). The only high-profile loss was Mary O'Rourke losing her seat in Westmeath.
  • The re-election of the Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats government, the first occasion since 1969 that an Irish government won re-election.
  • The meltdown in Fine Gael support, which saw the main opposition party drop from 54 to 31 seats, and lose all but three seats in Dublin.
  • The failure of the Labour Party, contrary to all expectations, to increase its seat total. Later in the year, Ruairi Quinn stepped down as leader of the Labour Party. He was replaced by Pat Rabbitte, who was one of four Democratic Left TDs who joined in a merger with Labour in 1999. The most high-profile loss for the party was the defeat of former leader Dick Spring in Kerry.
  • The success of the Green Party, which increased its TDs from two to six, including its first Teachta Dála (TD) outside of Dublin.
  • The electoral success of Sinn Féin, which increased its seat number from one to five.
  • The election of a large number of independent candidates.
  • Contrary to what opinion polls and political pundits were predicting, the Progressive Democrats kept all of their seats, and picked up four more.
  • It was the first time electronic voting machines were used in an Irish election. They were used in three constituencies: Dublin North, Dublin West and Meath.

Fine Gael

The most noticeable feature of the election was the collapse in Fine Gael's vote. It suffered its second worst electoral result ever (after the 1948 general election), with several prominent members failing to get re-elected, including:

The party's losses were especially pronounced in Dublin, where just three TDs (Richard Bruton, Gay Mitchell and Olivia Mitchell) were returned, fewer than Fianna Fáil, Labour, the Progressive Democrats or the Greens. The reasons for the drop in support for Fine Gael are many and varied:

  • There was an element of bad luck in some losses, and the proportion of seats they lost (42.6%) was much greater than the proportion of votes (5.2%).
  • In 2002, the Irish economy was booming, unemployment was low, and the outgoing government was a stable one that had lasted its full term.
  • No other opposition party, noticeably Labour, would agree to a pre-election pact with Fine Gael, sensing the unpopularity of the party. This meant that no-one felt that Fine Gael would be able to lead a government after the election. In contrast, the two parties of the outgoing government fought the election on a united front.
  • The Fine Gael party was poorly organised in Dublin, and morale was low.
  • The political landscape had changed in Ireland since Fine Gael's heyday in the 1980s. The Progressive Democrats and the Green Party in particular ate into Fine Gael's middle class support, and anti-Fianna Fáil voters had a much wider range of parties to choose from. All 4 of the extra seats won by the Green Party were at the expense of Fine Gael, as were 3 out of 4 of the Progressive Democrats' gains.
  • Toward the end of the campaign, Michael McDowell warned that because Fianna Fáil were so high in the opinion polls, they could form a government by themselves. This led to a significant shift to the Progressive Democrats at the last minute, and many Fine Gael voters voted strategically for the Progressive Democrats to avoid a single-party Fianna Fáil government.

In the immediate aftermath of the election, Fine Gael leader Michael Noonan announced his resignation from the leadership and Enda Kenny was chosen as the new leader in the subsequent election.


Party Fianna Fáil Fine Gael Labour Party Sinn Féin Progressive Democrats Green Party Socialist Party
Leader Bertie Ahern Michael Noonan Ruairi Quinn Gerry Adams Mary Harney Trevor Sargent Joe Higgins
Votes 41.5%, 770,748 22.5%, 417,619 10.8%, 200,130 6.5%, 121,020 4.0%, 73,628 3.8%, 71,470 0.8%, 14,896
Seats 81 (48.8%) 31 (18.7%) 20 (12.7%) 5 (3.0%) 8 (4.8%) 6 (3.6%) 1 (0.6%)
81 8 15 31 20 6 5 1
Fianna Fáil PDs Inds Fine Gael Labour Party Green Party Sinn Féin

Vote Share of different parties in the election.

  Fianna Fáil (41.5%)
  Fine Gael (22.5%)
  Labour Party (10.8%)
  Sinn Féin (6.5%)
  Green Party (3.8%)
  Socialist Party (0.8%)
  Other (10.1%)
29th Irish general election 17 May 2002[1][2]
Party Leader Seats ± % of
First Pref
% FPv ±%
Fianna Fáil Bertie Ahern 81 8 48.8 770,748 41.5 2.2
Fine Gael Michael Noonan 31 23 18.7 417,619 22.5 5.4
Labour Party Ruairi Quinn 20 3 12.7 200,130 10.8 0.3
Sinn Féin Gerry Adams 5 4 3.0 121,020 6.5 4.0
Progressive Democrats Mary Harney 8 4 4.8 73,628 4.0 0.7
Green Party Trevor Sargent 6 4 3.6 71,470 3.8 1.0
Socialist Party Joe Higgins 1 0 0.6 14,896 0.8 0.1
Christian Solidarity 0 0 0 4,741 0.3 0.2
Workers' Party Seán Garland 0 0 0 4,012 0.2 0.2
Socialist Workers N/A 0 0 0 3,333 0.2 0.1
Independent N/A 13 7 7.8 176,305 9.5 2.6
Spoilt votes 20,707
Total 166 0 100 1,878,609 100
Electorate/Turnout 3,002,173 62.6%
  • Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats majority coalition government formed.

Democratic Left, which won 4 seats in 1997, merged with the Labour Party in 1999. Independents include Independent Health Alliance candidates (12,296 votes, 1 seat) and Independent Fianna Fáil (6,124 votes, 1 seat).

Voting summary

First preference vote
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Sinn Féin
Progressive Democrats

Seats summary

Assembly seats
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Progressive Democrats
Sinn Féin

Dáil membership changes

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

  • 22 outgoing TDs retired
  • 143 TDs stood for re-election (plus the Ceann Comhairle, Séamus Pattison who was automatically returned)
    • 110 of those were re-elected
    • 33 failed to be re-elected
  • 55 successor TDs were elected
    • 47 were elected for the first time
    • 8 had previously been TDs
  • There were 7 successor female TDs, replacing 6 outgoing, increasing the total number by 1 to 22
  • There were changes in 38 of 42 constituencies contested

Outgoing TDs are listed in the constituency they constested in the election. For some, such as Marian McGennis, 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 John Browne Fine Gael Retired Nolan – Former TD M. J. Nolan Fianna Fáil
Cavan–Monaghan Andrew Boylan Fine Gael Lost seat Paudge Connolly Independent
Clare Brendan Daly Fianna Fáil Lost seat James Breen Independent
Donal Carey Fine Gael Lost seat Pat Breen Fine Gael
Cork East Paul Bradford Fine Gael Lost seat Sherlock – Former TD Joe Sherlock Labour Party
Cork North-Central Liam Burke Fine Gael Retired Lynch – Former TD Kathleen Lynch Labour Party
Cork North-West Michael Creed Fine Gael Lost seat Gerard Murphy Fine Gael
Cork South-Central Deirdre Clune Fine Gael Lost seat Dan Boyle Green Party
Cork South-West P. J. Sheehan Fine Gael Lost seat Denis O'Donovan Fianna Fáil
Donegal North-East Harry Blaney Ind. Fianna Fáil Retired Niall Blaney Ind. Fianna Fáil
Donegal South-West Tom Gildea Independent Retired Gallagher – Former TD Pat "the Cope" Gallagher Fianna Fáil
Dublin Central Jim Mitchell Fine Gael Lost seat Mitchell – FG Deputy Leader. Fitzpatrick – Former TD Dermot Fitzpatrick Fianna Fáil
Former TD (took McGennis' seat) Joe Costello Labour Party
Dublin Mid-West Austin Currie Fine Gael Lost seat Currie – Former Presidential candidate Paul Gogarty Green Party
New constituency, new seat John Curran Fianna Fáil
Dublin North Nora Owen Fine Gael Lost seat Owen – Former Minister for Justice Jim Glennon Fianna Fáil
Dublin North-Central Derek McDowell Labour Party Lost seat Finian McGrath Independent Health Alliance
Dublin North-East Michael Joe Cosgrave Fine Gael Lost seat Seats reduced from 4 to 3
Dublin North-West Proinsias De Rossa Labour Party Retired Seats reduced from 4 to 3
Dublin South Alan Shatter Fine Gael Lost seat Shatter – Fine Gael Front Bench member Eamon Ryan Green Party
Dublin South-Central Ben Briscoe Fianna Fáil Retired Michael Mulcahy Fianna Fáil
Marian McGennis Fianna Fáil Lost seat McGennis prev held Dublin Central Aengus Ó Snodaigh Sinn Féin
Dublin South-East Frances Fitzgerald Fine Gael Lost seat McDowell – Former TD Michael McDowell Progressive Democrats
Dublin South-West Brian Hayes Fine Gael Lost seat Seán Crowe Sinn Féin
Chris Flood Fianna Fáil Retired Charlie O'Connor Fianna Fáil
Dublin West Liam Lawlor Independent Retired Burton – Former TD Joan Burton Labour Party
Dún Laoghaire David Andrews Fianna Fáil Retired Barry Andrews Fianna Fáil
Seán Barrett Fine Gael Retired Fiona O'Malley Progressive Democrats
Monica Barnes Fine Gael Retired Ciarán Cuffe Green Party
Galway East Michael P. Kitt Fianna Fáil Lost seat Joe Callanan Fianna Fáil
Ulick Burke Fine Gael Lost seat Paddy McHugh Independent
Galway West Bobby Molloy Progressive Democrats Retired Noel Grealish Progressive Democrats
Kerry North Denis Foley Independent Retired Tom McEllistrim Fianna Fáil
Dick Spring Labour Party Lost seat Spring – Former Leader of the Labour Party Martin Ferris Sinn Féin
Kerry South No membership changes
Kildare North No membership changes
Kildare South Alan Dukes Fine Gael Lost seat Dukes – Former Leader of Fine Gael Seán Ó Fearghaíl Fianna Fáil
Laois–Offaly Tom Enright Fine Gael Retired Olwyn Enright Fine Gael
Charles Flanagan Fine Gael Lost seat Tom Parlon Progressive Democrats
Limerick East Desmond O'Malley Progressive Democrats Retired Former leader of the Progressive Democrats Tim O'Malley Progressive Democrats
Eddie Wade Fianna Fáil Lost seat Peter Power Fianna Fáil
Limerick West Michael Finucane Fine Gael Lost seat John Cregan Fianna Fáil
Longford–Roscommon Seán Doherty Fianna Fáil Retired Michael Finneran Fianna Fáil
Louis Belton Fine Gael Lost seat Mae Sexton Progressive Democrats
Albert Reynolds Fianna Fáil Retired Reynolds – Former Taoiseach Peter Kelly Fianna Fáil
Louth Brendan McGahon Fine Gael Retired Fergus O'Dowd Fine Gael
Michael Bell Labour Party Lost seat Arthur Morgan Sinn Féin
Mayo Jim Higgins Fine Gael Lost seat Higgins – Former Chief Whip Jerry Cowley Independent
Tom Moffatt Fianna Fáil Lost seat John Carty Fianna Fáil
Meath John V. Farrelly Fine Gael Lost seat Damien English Fine Gael
Sligo–Leitrim Matt Brennan Fianna Fáil Retired Jimmy Devins Fianna Fáil
Gerry Reynolds Fine Gael Lost seat Marian Harkin Independent
Tipperary North Michael O'Kennedy Fianna Fáil Retired Máire Hoctor Fianna Fáil
Tipperary South No membership changes
Waterford Austin Deasy Fine Gael Retired John Deasy Fine Gael
Brendan Kenneally Fianna Fáil Lost seat Ollie Wilkinson Fianna Fáil
Westmeath Mary O'Rourke Fianna Fáil Lost seat Donie Cassidy Fianna Fáil
Wexford Hugh Byrne Fianna Fáil Lost seat Tony Dempsey Fianna Fáil
Michael D'Arcy Fine Gael Lost seat Liam Twomey Independent
Ivan Yates Fine Gael Retired Paul Kehoe Fine Gael
Wicklow No membership changes

A summary of the cross-party seat transfers is:

Lost by To Seats Won by From Seats
Fine Gael (23) Fianna Fáil 7 Fianna Fáil (9) Fine Gael 7
Progressive Democrats 4 Independent 2
Sinn Féin 1 Independent (7) Fine Gael 5
Independent 5 Labour Party 1
Labour Party 2 Fianna Fáil 1
Green Party 4 Progressive Democrats (4) Fine Gael 4
Labour Party (3) Sinn Féin 2 Sinn Féin (4) Fine Gael 1
Independent 1 Labour Party 2
Independent (3) Fianna Fáil 2 Fianna Fáil 1
Labour Party 1 Green Party (4) Fine Gael 4
Fianna Fáil (2) Sinn Féin 1 Labour Party (3) Fine Gael 2
Independent 1 Independent 1

See also


  1. "29th Dáil – General Election: 17 May 2002". 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

Further reading

  • Mitchell, Paul (April 2003). "Fianna Fáil still dominant in the coalition era: The Irish general election of May 2002". West European Politics. 26 (2): 174–183. doi:10.1080/01402380512331341171.
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