1973 Irish general election

The 1973 Irish general election was held on 28 February 1973, a Wednesday. The general election took place in 42 parliamentary constituencies throughout Ireland for 144 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann. After the members of the 20th Dáil assembled at Leinster House on 4 March, the new Taoiseach and government were appointed.

1973 Irish general election

← 1969 28 February 1973 1977 →

144 seats in Dáil Éireann[a]
73 seats needed for a majority
Turnout76.6% Decrease 0.3pp
  First party Second party Third party
Jack Lynch 1979 (cropped).jpg
Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave-Patricks Day 1976.jpg
Brendan Corish 1949.png
Leader Jack Lynch Liam Cosgrave Brendan Corish
Party Fianna Fáil Fine Gael Labour
Leader since 9 November 1966 21 April 1965 2 March 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[a] 54 19
Seat change Decrease6 Increase3 Increase2
Percentage 46.2% 35.1% 13.7%
Swing Increase0.5% Increase1.0% Decrease3.3%

Irish general election 1973.png
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

Taoiseach after election

Liam Cosgrave
Fine Gael


By the time the general election was called in 1973, Fianna Fáil had been in office since March 1957, just under sixteen years. During that time the party had seen three different leaders: Éamon de Valera, Seán Lemass, and since 1966, Jack Lynch. 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 increased its percentage of the vote, it lost seats. A transfer pact between the National Coalition parties in the single transferable vote system enabled a change of government to take place.

In an interview with Brian Farrell on RTÉ, Jack Lynch 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.

Legal challengeEdit

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.[3][4] However, the electoral register would not be updated until 15 April, five weeks after the election date.[3][5] A 20-year-old student, represented by Seán MacBride, sought an injunction from the High Court postponing the election to vindicate his right to vote.[3] He lost his case, although he was awarded his costs due to its "public importance".[3]


Election to the 20th Dáil – 28 February 1973[6][7][8][9]
Party Leader Seats ± % of
First pref.
% FPv ±%
Fianna Fáil Jack Lynch 69[a] –6 47.9 624,528 46.2 +1.5
Fine Gael Liam Cosgrave 54 +4 37.5 473,781 35.1 +1.0
Labour Brendan Corish 19 +1 13.2 184,656 13.7 –3.3
Official Sinn Féin 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[a] 0 100 1,366,474 100
Electorate/Turnout 1,783,604 76.6%

Voting summaryEdit

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

Seats summaryEdit

Dáil seats
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael

Government formationEdit

Fine Gael and the Labour Party formed the 14th Government of Ireland, dubbed the National Coalition, with Liam Cosgrave as Taoiseach and Brendan Corish as Tánaiste.

Changes in membershipEdit

First-time TDsEdit

Outgoing TDsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Including Cormac Breslin (FF), returned automatically for Donegal–Leitrim as outgoing Ceann Comhairle, under Art. 16.6 of the Constitution and the Electoral Act 1963.[1][2]


  1. ^ Electoral Act 1963, s. 14: Re-election of outgoing Ceann Comhairle (No. 19 of 1963, s. 14). Signed on 12 July 1963. Act of the Oireachtas. Irish Statute Book.
  2. ^ "20th Dáil 1973: Donegal–Leitrim". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d Ferriter, Diarmaid (2012). Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s. Profile Books. pp. 94–95. ISBN 9781847658562. Archived from the original on 3 July 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  4. ^ Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Act 1972 ([1]). Signed on 5 January 1973. Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2014, from Irish Statute Book.
  5. ^ Registration of Electors and Juries Acts (Specification of Dates) Regulations 1963, §4(3) (S.I. No. 169 of 1963). Signed on 20 August 1963. Statutory Instrument of the Government of Ireland. Archived from the original on 26 November 2007. Retrieved 30 March 2014, from Irish Statute Book.
  6. ^ "Election results and transfer of votes in general election (February, 1973) for twentieth Dáil and bye-elections to nineteenth Dáil (1969–1973)" (PDF). Houses of the Oireachtas. Dublin Stationery Office. October 1973. Retrieved 2 August 2022.
  7. ^ "20th Dáil 1973 General Election". ElectionsIreland.org. Archived from the original on 7 May 2009. Retrieved 18 June 2009.
  8. ^ "Dáil elections since 1918". ARK Northern Ireland. Archived from the original on 27 November 2020. Retrieved 18 June 2009.
  9. ^ Nohlen, Dieter; Stöver, Philip (2010). Elections in Europe: A data handbook. pp. 1009–1017. ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7.

Further readingEdit