1989 Irish general election

The 1989 Irish general election was held on Thursday, 15 June, three weeks after the dissolution of the Dáil on 25 May. The newly elected 166 members of the 26th Dáil assembled at Leinster House on 29 June. However, a new Taoiseach and a Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats government were not appointed until 12 July.

1989 Irish general election

← 1987 15 June 1989 1992 →

165 of 166 seats in Dáil Éireann
84 seats needed for a majority
Turnout68.5% Decrease 4.8pp
  First party Second party Third party
(Charles Haughey) Rueda de prensa de Felipe González y el primer ministro de Irlanda. Pool Moncloa. 25 de abril de 1990 (cropped).jpeg
Alan Dukes.jpg
Irish Tánaiste Dick Spring at the White House, 16 Nov 1993.jpg
Leader Charles Haughey Alan Dukes Dick Spring
Party Fianna Fáil Fine Gael Labour
Leader since 7 December 1979 21 March 1987 November 1982
Leader's seat Dublin North-Central Kildare Kerry North
Last election 81 seats, 44.1% 51 seats, 27.1% 12 seats, 6.5%
Seats won 77 55 15
Seat change Decrease 4 Increase 4 Increase 3
Popular vote 731,472 485,307 156,989
Percentage 44.1% 29.3% 9.5%
Swing Decrease 0.1% Increase 2.2% Increase 3.1%

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
Proinsias De Rossa, cropped.jpg
Leader Proinsias De Rossa Desmond O'Malley
Party Workers' Party Progressive Democrats Green
Leader since 1988 21 December 1985
Leader's seat Dublin North-West Limerick East
Last election 4 seats, 3.8% 14 seats, 11.9% 0 seats, 0.4%
Seats won 7 6 1
Seat change Increase 3 Decrease 8 Increase 1
Popular vote 82,263 91,013 24,827
Percentage 5.0% 5.5% 1.5%
Swing Increase 1.2% Decrease 6.3% Increase 1.1%

Irish general election 1989.png
Percentage of seats gained by each of the three biggest parties, and number of seats gained by smaller parties and independents.

Taoiseach before election

Charles Haughey
Fianna Fáil

Taoiseach after election

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 1989 was precipitated by the defeat of the minority Fianna Fáil government in a private members motion regarding the provision of funds for AIDS sufferers (haemophiliacs who had been infected with contaminated blood products by the HSE). While a general election was not necessary – the defeat was seen merely as an embarrassment for the government – the Dáil was dissolved nonetheless.

Charles Haughey, the Fianna Fáil leader, called the general election for another reason; opinion polls had shown that the party's strong performance in government had increased their popularity and an overall majority for Fianna Fáil could be a possibility. Also, rumours were current that the general election was called so that certain Fianna Fáil members could raise money privately for themselves. While these rumours were dismissed at the time, it was revealed more than ten years later that Ray Burke, Pádraig Flynn and Haughey himself had received substantial personal donations during the campaign.[1]

While it was thought that the general election would catch the opposition parties unprepared, they co-ordinated themselves and co-operated very quickly. Further cuts in spending, particularly in the health service, became the dominant issue. Alan Dukes was fighting his first (and as events would prove, his only) general election as leader of Fine Gael. His "Tallaght Strategy" had kept Fianna Fáil in power, governing as a minority, since 1987.

The general election was held on the same day as the elections to the European Parliament, and turnout was 68.5%.


Election to the 26th Dáil – 15 June 1989[2][3][4]
Party Leader Seats ± % of
First pref.
% FPv ±%
Fianna Fáil Charles Haughey 77  4 46.4 731,472 44.1   0
Fine Gael Alan Dukes 55  4 33.1 485,307 29.3  2.2
Labour Dick Spring 15  3 9.1 156,989 9.5  3.1
Workers' Party Proinsias De Rossa 7  3 4.2 82,263 5.0  1.2
Progressive Democrats Desmond O'Malley 6  8 3.6 91,013 5.5  6.3
Green None 1  1 0.6 24,827 1.5  1.1
Democratic Socialist Jim Kemmy 1   0 0.6 9,836 0.6  0.2
Sinn Féin Gerry Adams 0   0 0 20,003 1.2  0.7
Communist Party James Stewart 0   0 0 342 0.0
Independent N/A 4  1 2.4 54,761 3.3  0.7
Spoilt votes 20,779
Total 166 0 100 1,677,592 100
Electorate/Turnout 2,448,810 68.5%
  • Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats coalition government formed.

Independents include Independent Fianna Fáil (6,961 votes, 1 seat), Army Wives (6,966 votes) and Gay candidates (517 votes).

No by-elections had taken place during the previous Dáil. One seat in Sligo–Leitrim had been vacant at the dissolution of the previous (25th) Dáil caused by the resignation of the Fianna Fáil member Ray MacSharry.[5]

While Fianna Fáil had hoped to achieve an overall majority, the party actually lost seats. The result was a disaster for Fianna Fáil, particularly when the election was so unnecessary. Fine Gael made a small gain, but nothing substantial. The Progressive Democrats did badly, losing over half their deputies. The Labour Party and the Workers' Party gained working class votes from Fianna Fáil, but failed to make the big breakthrough, while Sinn Féin polled even worse than its 1987 result. The Green Party won its first seat when Roger Garland was elected for Dublin South.

Forming a government proved to be extremely difficult. Many in Fianna Fáil had hoped that the minority government could continue where it left off, particularly if the "Tallaght Strategy" continued. However, Fine Gael refused to support the government and so a deadlock developed. The prospect of forming a government seemed remote, so much so that Charles Haughey was forced to formally resign as Taoiseach. For the first time in Irish history a Taoiseach and a government had not been appointed when the new Dáil met. However, twenty-seven days after the general election, Fianna Fáil entered into a coalition government for the first time in its history – with the Progressive Democrats.

Voting summaryEdit

First preference vote
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Progressive Democrats
Sinn Féin

Seats summaryEdit

Assembly seats
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Progressive Democrats
Democratic Socialist

Dáil membership changesEdit

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

  • 14 outgoing TDs retired
  • 1 vacant seat at election time
  • 150 outgoing TDs stood for re-election (also Seán Treacy, the outgoing Ceann Comhairle who was automatically returned)
    • 124 of those were re-elected
    • 26 failed to be re-elected
  • 41 successor TDs were elected
    • 32 were elected for the first time
    • 9 had previously been TDs
  • There were 4 successor female TDs, replacing 5 outgoing, thus reducing the total by 1 to 13
  • There were changes in 30 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 Kieran Crotty Fine Gael Retired John Browne Fine Gael
Martin Gibbons Progressive Democrats Lost seat Phil Hogan Fine Gael
Cavan–Monaghan Tom Fitzpatrick Fine Gael Retired Bill Cotter Fine Gael
Clare No membership changes
Cork East Patrick Hegarty Fine Gael Lost seat Paul Bradford Fine Gael
Cork North-Central Liam Burke Fine Gael Lost seat Gerry O'Sullivan Labour Party
Cork North-West Donal Moynihan Fianna Fáil Lost seat Laurence Kelly Fianna Fáil
Donal Creed Fine Gael Retired Son of outgoing TD Michael Creed Fine Gael
Cork South-Central Batt O'Keeffe Fianna Fáil Lost seat Micheál Martin Fianna Fáil
Cork South-West No membership changes
Donegal North-East Hugh Conaghan Fianna Fáil Lost seat Jim McDaid Fianna Fáil
Donegal South-West No membership changes
Dublin Central Michael Keating Progressive Democrats Retired Pat Lee Fine Gael
Dublin North John Boland Fine Gael Lost seat Owen – Former TD Nora Owen Fine Gael
G. V. Wright Fianna Fáil Lost seat Seán Ryan Labour Party
Dublin North-Central George Birmingham Fine Gael Lost seat Ivor Callely Fianna Fáil
Dublin North-East No membership changes
Dublin North-West No membership changes
Dublin South John Kelly Fine Gael Retired Fennell – Former TD Nuala Fennell Fine Gael
Anne Colley Progressive Democrats Lost seat Roger Garland Green Party
Dublin South-Central Frank Cluskey Labour Party Vacant seat Eric Byrne Workers' Party
Mary Mooney Fianna Fáil Lost seat O'Connell – Former TD John O'Connell Fianna Fáil
Dublin South-East Michael McDowell Progressive Democrats Lost seat Doyle – Former TD Joe Doyle Fine Gael
Dublin South-West Seán Walsh Fianna Fáil Lost Seat Pat Rabbitte Workers' Party
Dublin West Patrick O'Malley Progressive Democrats Lost seat Austin Currie Fine Gael
Dún Laoghaire Barry Desmond Labour Party Retired Eamon Gilmore Workers' Party
Geraldine Kennedy Progressive Democrats Lost seat Brian Hillery Fianna Fáil
Galway East No membership changes
Galway West John Donnellan Fine Gael Retired Pádraic McCormack Fine Gael
Kerry North Denis Foley Fianna Fáil Lost seat McEllistrim – Former TD Tom McEllistrim Fianna Fáil
Kerry South Michael Begley Fine Gael Lost seat Moynihan – Former TD Michael Moynihan Labour Party
Kildare Paddy Power Fianna Fáil Retired Seán Power Fianna Fáil
Laois–Offaly No membership changes
Limerick East No membership changes
Limerick West John McCoy Progressive Democrats Retired Michael Finucane Fine Gael
Longford–Westmeath Henry Abbott Fianna Fáil Lost seat Louis Belton Fine Gael
Patrick Cooney Fine Gael Retired Paul McGrath Fine Gael
Louth No membership changes
Mayo East No membership changes
Mayo West Denis Gallagher Fianna Fáil Retired Martin O'Toole Fianna Fáil
Meath Michael Lynch Fianna Fáil Lost seat Mary Wallace Fianna Fáil
Roscommon Seán Doherty Fianna Fáil Lost seat Tom Foxe Independent
Liam Naughten Fine Gael Lost seat Connor – Former TD John Connor Fine Gael
Sligo–Leitrim Ray MacSharry Fianna Fáil Resigned[6] Gerry Reynolds Fine Gael
Tipperary North No membership changes
Tipperary South Brendan Griffin Fine Gael Lost seat Theresa Ahearn Fine Gael
Seán McCarthy Fianna Fáil Lost seat Michael Ferris Labour Party
Waterford Brian Swift Fianna Fáil Lost seat Brendan Kenneally Fianna Fáil
Martin Cullen Progressive Democrats Lost seat Brian O'Shea Labour Party
Wexford Hugh Byrne Fianna Fáil Lost seat Séamus Cullimore Fianna Fáil
Avril Doyle Fine Gael Lost seat D'Arcy – Former TD Michael D'Arcy Fine Gael
Wicklow Gemma Hussey Fine Gael Retired Timmins – Former TD Godfrey Timmins Fine Gael

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Page 87 of Foot in Mouth: Famous Irish Political Gaffes by Shane Coleman. ISBN 1842103768
  2. ^ "26th Dáil 1989 General Election". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  3. ^ "Dáil elections since 1918". ARK Northern Ireland. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  4. ^ Dieter Nohlen & Philip Stöver (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, pp1009-1017 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
  5. ^ "Dáil Éireann By Election Writs 1918–2005". ElectionsIreland.org.
  6. ^ Ray MacSharry became European Commissioner in 1988, but no by-election was held.

Further readingEdit

  • O'Leary, Brendan, and John Peterson. "Further Europeanisation? The Irish General Election of June 1989." West European Politics 13#1 (1990): 124-136.
  • Sinnott, Richard. Irish voters decide: Voting behaviour in elections and referendums since 1918 (Manchester University Press, 1995).

External linksEdit