Government of the 13th Dáil

Government of the 13th Dáil
5th Government of Ireland
Date formed 18 February 1948
Date dissolved 13 June 1951
People and organisations
Head of government John A. Costello
Deputy head of government William Norton
Head of state Seán T. O'Kelly
Total number of ministers 12
Member parties Fine Gael
Labour Party
Clann na Poblachta
Clann na Talmhan
National Labour Party
Status in legislature Coalition
Opposition leader Éamon de Valera (Fianna Fáil)
Election(s) 1948 general election
Legislature term(s) 13th Dáil
Predecessor 4th Government of Ireland
Successor 6th Government of Ireland

The 13th Dáil was elected at the 1948 general election on 4 February 1948 and first met on 18 February when the 5th Government of Ireland was appointed. The 13th Dáil lasted for 1,211 days.

The 5th Government of Ireland (18 February 1948 – 13 June 1951) – or more commonly the First Inter-Party Government – is the name given to the government which led Ireland from 1948 to 1951.[1] The government was made up of a number of political parties including Fine Gael, the Labour Party, Clann na Poblachta, Clann na Talmhan and the National Labour Party – and one TD who was (at least in theory) an independentJames Dillon (who had resigned from Fine Gael after opposing their neutral stance in World War II). It was the first change of government since 1932. The parties had many different aims and viewpoints, but a united dislike of Fianna Fáil overcame all difficulties in forming a government. The Cabinet was made up of representatives of all parties and ministers were given a great degree of independence. Some key events during the lifetime of the government include the declaration of the Republic of Ireland in 1949 and the crisis surrounding the "Mother and Child Scheme" in 1951.


Fianna Fáil had ruled uninterrupted since 1932 with Éamon de Valera as prime minister (titled as President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State until 1937 and since then as Taoiseach). However, the 1948 general election left the party six seats short of a majority. Negotiations for confidence and supply with the National Labour Party failed when National Labour insisted on a formal coalition; at the time, Fianna Fáil would not enter coalitions with other parties. At first, it seemed that de Valera would attempt to govern alone in a minority government. Fianna Fáil had 37 more seats than the next-biggest party, Fine Gael, and thus appeared to be the only party that could possibly form a government.

However, to the surprise of most observers, the other parties realised that if they banded together, they would have only one seat fewer than Fianna Fáil, and would be able to form a government with the support of at least seven independents.

It was a foregone conclusion that Fine Gael would head such a coalition, since it was by far the second-largest party. Fine Gael's leader, Richard Mulcahy, thus appeared to have the inside track to becoming Taoiseach. However, Labour leader William Norton told Mulcahy that in all likelihood, Clann na Poblachta would not serve under Mulchahy. Clann na Poblachta's leader, Seán MacBride, and many other Republicans had never forgiven Mulcahy for his role in carrying out 77 executions under the government of the Irish Free State in the 1920s during the Irish Civil War. Without MacBride, the other parties would have been nine seats short of the 74 they needed to topple de Valera. Accordingly, Mulcahy bowed out in favour of former Attorney General John A. Costello.

On 18 February 1948 Costello was appointed as the second Taoiseach of the Irish state on the nomination of the Dáil, consigning de Valera to the opposition benches for the first time in 16 years. Costello found himself as leader of a disparate group of young and old politicians, republicans and Free Staters, conservatives and socialists. The government survived, however, due to the skill of Costello as Taoiseach and the independence of various ministers.

5th Government of Ireland

Office Name Term Party
Taoiseach John A. Costello 1948–51 Fine Gael
Tánaiste William Norton 1948–51 Labour Party
Minister for Social Welfare
Minister for Agriculture James Dillon 1948–51 Independent[2]
Minister for Defence Thomas F. O'Higgins 1948–51 Fine Gael
Minister for Education Richard Mulcahy 1948–51 Fine Gael
Minister for External Affairs Seán MacBride 1948–51 Clann na Poblachta
Minister for Finance Patrick McGilligan 1948–51 Fine Gael
Minister for Health Noël Browne[3] 1948–51 Clann na Poblachta
Minister for Industry and Commerce Daniel Morrissey 1948–51 Fine Gael
Minister for Justice Seán Mac Eoin 1948–51 Fine Gael
Minister for Lands Joseph Blowick 1948–51 Clann na Talmhan
Minister for Local Government Timothy J. Murphy 1948–49 Labour Party
Minister for Posts and Telegraphs James Everett 1948–51 National Labour/Labour

Changes 3 May 1949

Following the death of Timothy J. Murphy:

Office Name Term Party
Minister for Local Government William Norton (acting) Labour Party

Changes 11 May 1949

Following the death of Timothy J. Murphy:

Office Name Term Party
Minister for Local Government Michael Keyes 1949–51 Labour Party
Office Name Term Party
Minister for Justice Daniel Morrissey 1951 Fine Gael
Minister for Industry and Commerce Thomas F. O'Higgins 1951 Fine Gael
Minister for Defence Seán Mac Eoin 1951 Fine Gael

Changes 12 April 1951

Following the resignation of Noël Browne:

Office Name Term Party
Minister for Health John A. Costello (acting) Fine Gael

See also


  1. "History of Government – Thirteenth Dáil". Department of the Taoiseach. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  2. James Dillon resigned from Fine Gael in 1942 over his opposition to neutrality and rejoined the party only in 1953; however, he remained closely associated with Fine Gael in the intervening period.
  3. Noël Browne resigned on 11 April 1951 due to controversy surrounding the Mother and Child Scheme.
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