1977 Irish general election

← 1973 16 June 1977 1981 →

148 seats in Dáil Éireann[a]
75 seats needed for a majority
Turnout76.3% 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 Dún Laoghaire Wexford
Last election 69 seats, 46.2% 54 seats, 35.1% 19 seats, 13.7%
Seats before 65 55 20
Seats won 84 43 17[a]
Seat change Increase19 Decrease12 Decrease3
Percentage 50.6% 30.5% 11.6%
Swing Increase4.4% Decrease4.6% Decrease2.1%

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

Taoiseach before election

Liam Cosgrave
Fine Gael

Taoiseach after election

Jack Lynch
Fianna Fáil

The 1977 Irish general election to the 21st Dáil was held on Thursday, 16 June, following the dissolution of the 20th Dáil on 25 May by President Patrick Hillery on the request of Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave. The general election took place in 42 Dáil constituencies throughout Ireland for 148 seats in Dáil Éireann, the house of representatives of the Oireachtas, an increase of four seats with a significant revision of constituencies under the Electoral (Amendment) Act 1974. The election is regarded as a pivotal point in twentieth-century Irish politics. Jack Lynch led Fianna Fáil to a landslide election win, clearly defeating the outgoing Fine GaelLabour government.

The 21st Dáil met at Leinster House on 5 July to nominate the Taoiseach for appointment by the president and to approve the appointment of a new government of Ireland. Jack Lynch was appointed Taoiseach, forming the 15th Government of Ireland, a single-party majority Fianna Fáil government. It was the last election to result in a single-party majority government.


This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (January 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

In spite of having faced some controversial issues during its term of office, the ruling Fine GaelLabour Party coalition looked set to defy political history by winning an unprecedented second term. This belief was further augmented following the so-called "Tullymander" of parliamentary constituencies. This refers to the Minister for Local Government James Tully, and his scheme of redrawing constituencies across the country to maximise the vote for the coalition partners. For example, in Dublin there were thirteen three-seat constituencies. It was hoped that the coalition partners would win two of the seats, leaving Fianna Fáil with only one seat. A similar tactic was used in rural areas where the party was at its strongest.

As a result of this, Fianna Fáil and its leader Jack Lynch believed that they could not win the general election. The party drew up a manifesto which offered the electorate a string of financial and economic "sweeteners", encouraging them to vote for Fianna Fáil. Some of the promises that were offered included the abolition of rates on houses, the abolition of car tax and the promise of reducing unemployment to under 100,000. Lynch agreed to the manifesto because he believed that the party needed something dramatic if it were to win the election.

Both The Irish Times and The Irish Press, which was then edited by Tim Pat Coogan, were extremely critical of the government's curtailment of freedom of speech and in particular of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs Conor Cruise O'Brien, who used these restrictions against the PIRA.

The Fianna Fáil campaign was based on the American model. Inspired by director of elections Séamus Brennan, Lynch travelled the length and breadth of the country, music blaring, accompanied by his followers. His popularity was at its highest, and it soon became clear he might win the election. Lynch's popularity was a big electoral asset. The party slogan "Bring Back Jack" even played on Lynch's huge appeal. But the monetary sweeteners were Fianna Fáil's biggest asset.

In contrast to Fianna Fáil, the government parties of Fine Gael and the Labour Party fought the general election on their record in government. The redrawing of the constituency boundaries also gave them hope for success, however they offered little to the electorate except for the policies they had been pursuing for the previous four years.

While towards the end of the campaign Fianna Fáil were expected to win the general election, nobody predicted the scale of that victory. An unprecedented nine-seat majority in Dáil Éireann for Fianna Fáil saw the National Coalition swept from power in what was at the time the biggest political hurricane in Irish history. Only Éamon de Valera had ever done better, but only once out of 13 elections. Following the election, the leaders of Fine Gael and the Labour Party, Liam Cosgrave and Brendan Corish resigned as leaders of their respective parties, the first occasion in which a defeated Taoiseach or Tánaiste had done so.

"Tullymandering" and the unprecedented sweeteners were the cause for the scale of the coalition's defeat. The new government established an independent commission to revise constituency boundaries.


Election to the 21st Dáil – 16 June 1977[4][5][6][7]
Party Leader Seats ± % of
First pref.
% FPv ±%
Fianna Fáil Jack Lynch 84 +15 56.8 811,615 50.6 +4.4
Fine Gael Liam Cosgrave 43 –11 29.0 488,767 30.5 –4.6
Labour Brendan Corish 17[a] –2 11.5 186,410 11.6 –2.1
Sinn Féin – The Workers' Party Tomás Mac Giolla 0 0 27,209 1.7 +0.6
Irish Republican Socialist Seamus Costello 0 New 0 955 0.1
Communist Party Michael O'Riordan 0 0 544 0.0
Independent N/A 4 +2 2.7 87,527 5.5 +2.6
Spoilt votes 13,743
Total 148[a] +4 100 1,616,770 100
Electorate/Turnout 2,118,606 76.3%

Independents include Independent Fianna Fáil (13,824 votes, 1 seat) and the Community group in Dublin (9,427 votes).

Voting summary

First preference vote
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Sinn Féin (Workers' Party)

Seats summary

Dáil seats
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael

Government formation

Fianna Fáil formed a majority government, the 15th Government of Ireland led by Jack Lynch as Taoiseach. In December 1979, Charles Haughey succeeded Lynch as Taoiseach, forming the 16th Government of Ireland.

Membership changes

First time TDs

42 TDs were elected for the first time:

Outgoing TDs

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Including Seán Treacy (Lab), returned automatically for Tipperary South as outgoing Ceann Comhairle, under Art. 16.6 of the Constitution and the Electoral Act 1963, as adapted by the Electoral (Amendment) Act 1974.[1][2][3]


  1. ^ Electoral Act 1963, s. 14: Re-election of outgoing Ceann Comhairle (No. 19 of 1963, s. 14). Enacted on 12 July 1963. Act of the Oireachtas. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book.
  2. ^ Electoral (Amendment) Act 1974, s. 5: Re-election of outgoing Ceann Comhairle (No. 7 of 1974, s. 5). Enacted on 7 May 1974. Act of the Oireachtas. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book.
  3. ^ "21st Dáil 1977: Tipperary South". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  4. ^ "Election results and transfer of votes in general election (June, 1977) for twenty-first Dáil and bye-elections to twentieth Dáil (1973–1977)" (PDF). Houses of the Oireachtas. Dublin Stationery Office. February 1978. Retrieved 2 August 2022.
  5. ^ "21st Dáil 1977 General Election". ElectionsIreland.org. Archived from the original on 28 April 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2009.
  6. ^ "Dáil elections since 1918". ARK Northern Ireland. Archived from the original on 27 November 2020. Retrieved 19 June 2009.
  7. ^ Nohlen, Dieter; Stöver, Philip (2010). Elections in Europe: A data handbook. pp. 1009–1017. ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7.

Further reading