|Founder and leader||Michael Donnellan|
Clann na Talmhan (pronounced [ˈklˠaːn̪ˠ n̪ˠə ˈt̪ˠal̪ˠwənˠ, - ˈt̪ˠalˠuːnˠ], "Family/Children of the land"; formally known as the National Agricultural Party) was an Irish agrarian political party active between 1939 and 1965.
Clann na Talmhan was founded on 29 June 1939 in Athenry, County Galway, in the wake of the breakdown of unification talks between the Irish Farmers Federation (IFF) and representatives of farmers in Connacht on the rate-paying issue. While the IFF supported full derating, the western view was that the largest farmers should not be relieved of all their rate-paying obligations. Were this to happen, the western opinion was that indirect taxation would inevitably increase, and small farmers and workers would find themselves appreciably worse-off.
The party was led initially by Galway farmer Michael Donnellan. Its foundation represented a revival of agrarian politics in Ireland; from 1922 to 1933 a series of parties had represented farming interests, namely the Farmers' Party and the National Centre Party. However, these groups mostly attracted large farmers in the east. In contrast, Clann na Talmhan appealed explicitly to the more numerous small farmers of the west of Ireland. The party's objectives included the promotion of the interests of small farmers, government support for land reclamation, lowering of taxes on farmland, a more progressive system of land rates that would help small farmers, and more intensive afforestation. During the 1940s it began to adopt social democratic policies. It supported free secondary education and subsidised university education, as well as state investment in a public healthcare system. The party also had a distinct populist streak, pushing back against establishment politicians, bankers and the wealthy in Irish society. In 1942 at a rally in Dunmore, County Galway Michael Donnellan declared "You could take all the TDs, all the senators, all the ministers and members of the judiciary and all the other nice fellows and dump them off Clare Island into the broad Atlantic. Still, Ireland would succeed. But without the workers and producers, the country would starve in twenty-four hours".
In contrast to the earlier Farmers' Party, Clann na Talmhan emphasised grass-roots campaigning and political agitation. It also developed an efficient electoral machine, largely owing to the advice and skills it gained from former members of Fianna Fáil. Although the party was hindered to a degree by wartime restrictions on public meetings and the press, it did have five years to prepare for its first election.
In 1943, Clann na Talmhan merged with the National Agricultural Party a rival political party setup in Leinster to represent the large farmers there, with the belief that the merger was needed in order to contest the upcoming 1943 general election. The unified party the party won ten seats in that election and nine at the 1944 general election. However, the merger of the two groups brought a great deal of instability as infighting between the small farmers from Connacht and the large farmers from Leinsters divided the party members. In light of this Donnellan resigned as leader following the election and was replaced by Joseph Blowick, a large farmer holder from County Mayo.
The party was one of five parties in the first inter-party government (1948–1951), with Blowick serving as Minister for Lands and Donnellan becoming a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance. Clann na Talmhan was one of three parties in the second inter-party government (1954–1957), with Blowick and Donnellan reprising their ministerial roles. However, this period saw a retrenchment rather than expansion of the party, which did not expand its support beyond western and southern small farmers. Like its spiritual predecessors, Clann na Talmhan could not unite small and large farmers in one party, and this restricted its electoral appeal.
The party began to lose its position after its spells in government. A lack of improvement in the economy during this period led to disillusionment with Clann na Talmhan, and people again began to vote for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael rather than small parties. During the 1950s many activists had departed, and the party became little more than a collection of personal electoral machines. By 1961, Donnellan and Blowick were the only party TDs remaining, and the party ceased to exist as an organisation independent of those men. When Donnellan died in 1964 his son John Donnellan was elected in his place, but for Fine Gael rather than his father's party. Blowick decided not to contest the 1965 general election, and Clann na Talmhan was formally wound up.
|Election||Seats won||±||Position||First Pref votes||%||Government||Leader|
10 / 138
9 / 138
7 / 147
|2||5th||73,813||5.6%||Coalition (FG-LP-CnP-CnT-NLP)||Joseph Blowick|
6 / 147
5 / 147
|1||4th||51,069||3.8%||Coalition (FG-LP-CnT)||Joseph Blowick|
3 / 147
2 / 144
A flavour of the distaste for politicians and other establishment figures is well conveyed in Michael Donnellan’s suggestion, at a Dunmore rally in 1942, that you could take all the TDs, all the senators, all the ministers and members of the judiciary and all the other nice fellows and dump them off Clare Island into the broad Atlantic. Still, Ireland would succeed. But without the workers and producers the country would starve in twenty-four hours.