1961 Irish general election

The 1961 Irish general election to the 17th Dáil was held on Wednesday, 4 October, following the dissolution of the 16th Dáil on 15 September by President Éamon de Valera on the request of Taoiseach Seán Lemass. The general election took place in 38 Dáil constituencies throughout Ireland for 144 seats in Dáil Éireann, the house of representatives of the Oireachtas, which had been reduced in size by three seats from the previous election by the Electoral (Amendment) Act 1961. Fianna Fáil lost its majority but remained the dominant party.

1961 Irish general election

← 1957 4 October 1961 1965 →

144 seats in Dáil Éireann[a]
73 seats needed for a majority
Turnout70.6% Decrease 0.7pp
  First party Second party Third party
James Dillon circa 1930s.jpg
Brendan Corish 1949.png
Leader Seán Lemass James Dillon Brendan Corish
Party Fianna Fáil Fine Gael Labour
Leader since 22 June 1959 21 March 1959 2 March 1960
Leader's seat Dublin South-Central Monaghan Wexford
Last election 78 seats, 48.3% 40 seats, 26.6% 12 seats, 9.1%
Seats before 77 41 11
Seats won 70 47 16[a]
Seat change Decrease7 Increase6 Increase4
Percentage 43.8% 32.0% 11.6%
Swing Decrease4.5% Increase5.4% Increase2.5%

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
Seán MacBride circa 1947.jpg
Leader Joseph Blowick Noël Browne Seán MacBride
Party Clann na Talmhan National Progressive Democrats Clann na Poblachta
Leader since 5 September 1944 23 July 1958 21 January 1946
Leader's seat Mayo South Dublin South-East Dublin South-West
Last election 3 seats, 2.4% N/A 1 seat, 1.7%
Seats before 3 2 1
Seats won 2 2 1
Seat change Decrease1 Steady 0 Steady 0
Percentage 1.5% 1.0% 1.1%
Swing Decrease0.9% Increase1.0% Decrease0.6%

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

Taoiseach before election

Seán Lemass
Fianna Fáil

Taoiseach after election

Seán Lemass
Fianna Fáil

The 17th Dáil met at Leinster House on 11 October to nominate the Taoiseach for appointment by the president and to approve the appointment of a new government of Ireland. Lemass was re-appointed Taoiseach, forming the 10th Government of Ireland, a single-party minority Fianna Fáil government.



At the general election of 1961, the three main parties were led by new leaders: Seán Lemass had taken charge of Fianna Fáil in 1959, making this the first time Fianna Fáil faced a general election campaign without Éamon de Valera (who had become President of Ireland in 1959). James Dillon had taken over at Fine Gael in 1959 also, while the Labour Party was now under the leadership of Brendan Corish.

Lemass announced the date of the election on 8 September, with the dissolution to take place a week later on 15 September. It was the shortest period between the dissolution and the election permitted in law.[4][5]

While the election was caused by the "crisis" surrounding Ireland's application for membership of the European Economic Community and various other international affairs, little attention was paid to these matters during the campaign; the 1961 general election has become known as the dullest campaign on record, with the most important issue being the teaching of the Irish language in schools. Fianna Fáil fought the election on its record in government and a reforming theme; Fine Gael presented itself as the party of free enterprise. The Labour Party campaigned strongly against the "conservative" Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parties. It also favoured major expansion in the public sector. It was the first and only general election contested by the National Progressive Democrats led by Noël Browne.


Election to the 17th Dáil – 4 October 1961[6][7][8][9]
Party Leader Seats ± % of
First pref.
% FPv ±%
Fianna Fáil Seán Lemass 70 –8 48.6 512,073 43.8 –4.5
Fine Gael James Dillon 47 +7 32.6 374,099 32.0 +5.4
Labour Brendan Corish 16[a] +4 11.1 136,111 11.6 +2.5
Sinn Féin Paddy McLogan 0 –4 0 36,396 3.1 –2.2
Clann na Talmhan Joseph Blowick 2 –1 1.4 17,693 1.5 –0.9
Clann na Poblachta Seán MacBride[b] 1 0 0.7 13,170 1.1 –0.6
National Progressive Democrats Noël Browne 2 New 1.4 11,490 1.0
Christian Democratic Party 0 New 0 1,132 0.1
Irish Workers' League Michael O'Riordan 0 New 0 277 0.0
Independent N/A 6 –3 4.2 65,963 5.6 –0.3
Spoilt votes 11,334
Total 144[a] –3 100 1,179,738 100
Electorate/Turnout 1,670,860 70.6%

Voting summary

First preference vote
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Sinn Féin
Clann na Talmhan
Clann na Poblachta
National Progressive Democrats

Seats summary

Dáil seats
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Clann na Talmhan
National Progressive Democrats
Clann na Poblachta

Government formation


The 17th Dáil met on 11 October 1961. Fianna Fáil were short of a majority, with 70 of the 144 seats in the Dáil, but were able to form a new single-party government, the 10th Government of Ireland, with the support of Independent TDs.

Changes in membership


First-time TDs


Re-elected TDs


Retiring TDs


Defeated TDs


Seanad election


The Dáil election was followed by an election to the 10th Seanad.


  1. ^ a b c d Including Patrick Hogan (Lab), returned automatically for Clare as outgoing Ceann Comhairle, under Art. 16.6 of the Constitution and the Electoral (Chairman of Dáil Éireann) Act 1937.[1][2][3]
  2. ^ After the election, Seán MacBride continued as leader of Clann na Poblachta, while Joseph Barron became parliamentary leader and the sole member of the parliamentary party.


  1. ^ Electoral (Chairman of Dail Eireann) Act 1937, s. 3: Re-election of outgoing Ceann Comhairle (No. 25 of 1937, s. 3). Enacted on 1 November 1937. Act of the Oireachtas. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book.
  2. ^ Electoral (Amendment) Act 1961, s. 5: Re-election of outgoing Ceann Comhairle (No. 19 of 1961, s. 5). Enacted on 14 July 1961. Act of the Oireachtas. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book.
  3. ^ "17th Dáil 1961: Clare". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  4. ^ "General Election to be on October 4th: Short time for electioneering". The Irish Times. 9 September 1961. p. 1.
  5. ^ "President Dissolves 16th Dail Eireann". The Irish Times. 9 September 1961. p. 13.
  6. ^ "Election results and transfer of votes in general election (October, 1961) for seventeenth Dáil and bye-elections to sixteenth Dáil (1957–1961)" (PDF). Houses of the Oireachtas. Dublin Stationery Office. May 1962. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  7. ^ "17th Dáil 1961 General Election". ElectionsIreland.org. Archived from the original on 26 November 2020. Retrieved 30 May 2009.
  8. ^ "Dáil elections since 1918". ARK Northern Ireland. Archived from the original on 27 November 2020. Retrieved 30 May 2009.
  9. ^ Nohlen, Dieter; Stöver, Philip (2010). Elections in Europe: A data handbook. Nomos. pp. 1009–1017. ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7.