Irish general election, 1981

Irish general election, 1981
Republic of Ireland
11 June 1981

165 of 166 seats in Dáil Éireann
83 seats were needed for a majority
Turnout 76.2%
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Charles Haughey Garret FitzGerald Frank Cluskey
Party Fianna Fáil Fine Gael Labour Party
Leader since 7 December 1979 1977 1977
Leader's seat Dublin North-Central Dublin South-East Dublin South-Central
Last election 84 seats, 50.6% 43 seats, 30.5% 17 seats, 11.6%
Seats before 83 45 15
Seats won 78 65 15
Seat change Decrease5 Increase20 Steady 0
Percentage 45.3% 36.5% 9.9%
Swing Decrease5.3% Increase6.0% Decrease1.7%

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
Leader Anti H-Block Committee Tomás Mac Giolla Noël Browne
Party Anti H-Block Sinn Féin (Workers' Party) Socialist Labour Party
Leader since N/A 1977 1981
Leader's seat N/A N/A Dublin North-Central
Last election New 0 seats, 1.7% New
Seats before 0 0 0
Seats won 2 1 1
Seat change New +1 New
Percentage 2.5% 1.7% 0.4%
Swing New New

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

Taoiseach before election

Charles Haughey
Fianna Fáil

Subsequent Taoiseach

Garret FitzGerald
Fine Gael

The Irish general election of 1981 was held on 11 June 1981, three weeks after the dissolution of the Dáil on 21 May. The newly elected 166 members of the 22nd Dáil assembled at Leinster House on 30 June when a new Taoiseach and government were appointed.

The general election took place in 41 parliamentary constituencies throughout Ireland for 166 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann. The number of seats in the Dáil was increased by 18 from 148 to 166.


The general election of 1981 was the first one of five during the 1980s. The election also saw three new leaders of the three main parties fight their first general election. Charles Haughey had become Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil at the end of 1979, Garret FitzGerald was the new leader of Fine Gael and Frank Cluskey was in charge of the Labour Party.

Haughey and Fianna Fáil seemed extremely popular with the electorate in early 1981. He was expected to call the election at the time of the Fianna Fáil ardfheis on 14 February, but the Stardust fire caused the ardfheis to be postponed, and the Republican hunger strike in the Maze Prison began in March.[1] By the dissolution in May, much of the earlier optimism in the party had filtered out. The Anti H-Block movement fielded abstentionist candidates in solidarity with the hunger strikers, undermining the Republican credentials of Fianna Fáil.

Fianna Fáil's manifesto promised the electorate more spending programmes and Fine Gael put forward a series of tax-cutting plans.


22nd Irish general election 11 June 1981[2][3][4]
Party Leader Seats ± % of
First Pref
% FPv ±%
Fianna Fáil Charles Haughey 78 –6 47.0 777,616 45.3 –5.3
Fine Gael Garret FitzGerald 65 +22 39.2 626,376 36.5 +6.0
Labour Party Frank Cluskey 15 –2 9.0 169,990 9.9 –1.7
Anti H-Block None 2 New 1.2 42,803 2.5
Sinn Féin (Workers' Party) Tomás Mac Giolla 1 +1 0.6 29,561 1.7 0
Socialist Labour Party Noël Browne 1 New 0.6 7,107 0.4
Socialist Party of Ireland Eamonn O'Brien 0 New 0 571 0.0
Communist Party Eugene McCartan 0 0 0.0 358 0.0
Independent N/A 4 0 2.4 63,829 3.7 –1.8
Spoilt votes 16,168
Total 166 +18 100 1,734,379 100
Electorate/Turnout 2,275,450 76.2%

Independents include Independent Fianna Fáil (13,546 votes, 1 seat).

When the votes were counted the result was inconclusive. Fianna Fáil lost seats as a result of sympathy to the Anti H-Block candidates and the attractive tax proposals of Fine Gael. It was the worst performance for Fianna Fáil in twenty years. Meanwhile, Labour Party leader Frank Cluskey lost his seat, necessitating a leadership change with Michael O'Leary succeeding Cluskey. A Fine Gael–Labour Party coalition government came to power with Garret FitzGerald becoming Taoiseach.

Dáil membership changes

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

Where more than one change took place in a constituency the concept of successor is an approximation for presentation only. Where a number of related constituency changes took place in an area, such as Cork, the outgoing constituency for retiring TDs and the allocation of new seats are approximations for presentation only. Outgoing TDs re-elected in a new constituency, with no related changes, are not recorded as a change

Constituency Departing TD Party Change Comment Successor TD Party
Carlow–Kilkenny Jim Gibbons Fianna Fáil Lost seat Governey: Former TD Desmond Governey Fine Gael
Cavan–Monaghan Jimmy Leonard Fianna Fáil Lost seat Doherty: Was on hunger strike at the time of his election Kieran Doherty Anti H-Block
Clare Frank Taylor Fine Gael Retired Madeleine Taylor Fine Gael
Seat added Loughnane: moved from Galway West Bill Loughnane Fianna Fáil
Cork East Jerry Cronin Fianna Fáil Retired (from Cork North-East) Carey Joyce Fianna Fáil
Richard Barry Fine Gael Retired (from Cork North-East) First TD to be elected for Official Sinn Féin/ The Workers' Party. Joe Sherlock Sinn Féin the Workers Party
Cork North-Central Jack Lynch Fianna Fáil Retired (from Cork City) Denis Lyons Fianna Fáil
Seat added Bernard Allen Fine Gael
Seat added Toddy O'Sullivan Labour Party
Cork North-West Frank Crowley Fine Gael
Cork South-Central Barry Cogan Fianna Fáil Lost seat (moved from Cork Mid) Hugh Coveney Fine Gael
Cork South-West Michael Murphy Labour Party Retired P. J. Sheehan Fine Gael
Joe Walsh Fianna Fáil Lost seat Crowley: Former TD Flor Crowley Fianna Fáil
Donegal North-East No membership changes
Donegal South-West Seat added Pat the Cope Gallagher Fianna Fáil
Dublin North Joe Fox Fianna Fáil Lost seat (moved from Dublin County North) Nora Owen Fine Gael
Dublin North-Central Seat added George Birmingham Fine Gael
Dublin Central Vivion de Valera Fianna Fáil Retired (from Dublin Cabra) (Ahern: moved from Dublin Finglas) Bertie Ahern Fianna Fáil
Tom Leonard Fianna Fáil Lost seat (moved from Dublin Cabra) (Colley: from Dublin Clontarf) George Colley Fianna Fáil
Luke Belton Fine Gael Lost seat (moved from Dublin Finglas) Alice Glenn Fine Gael
Dublin North-East Liam Fitzgerald Fianna Fáil
Seán Loftus Independent
Dublin North-West Mary Flaherty Fine Gael
Timothy Killeen Fianna Fáil Lost seat (moved from Dublin Artane) Michael Barrett Fianna Fáil
Dublin South Nuala Fennell Fine Gael
Síle de Valera Fianna Fáil Lost seat (moved from Dublin County Mid) Séamus Brennan Fianna Fáil
John Horgan Labour Party Lost seat(moved from Dublin County South) Alan Shatter Fine Gael
Dublin South-West Mary Harney Fianna Fáil
Mervyn Taylor Labour Party
Dublin West Burke: Former TD Richard Burke Fine Gael
Mark Clinton Fine Gael Retired (from Dublin County West) Brian Fleming Fine Gael
Liam Lawlor Fianna Fáil Lost seat (moved from Dublin County West) (Lemass: from Dublin Ballyfermot) Eileen Lemass Fianna Fáil
Dublin South-Central Seat added (Briscoe: from Dublin Rathmines West) Ben Briscoe Fianna Fáil
Seat added Gay Mitchell Fine Gael
Frank Cluskey Labour Party Lost seat (O'Connell:from Dublin Ballyfermot) John O'Connell Independent
Dublin South-East Seat added (Brady: from Dublin Rathimines West) Gerard Brady Fianna Fáil
Ruairi Quinn Labour Party Lost seat (Ryan: from Dublin Rathimines West) Richie Ryan Fine Gael
Dún Laoghaire Liam Cosgrave Fine Gael Retired Liam T. Cosgrave Fine Gael
Seat added Sean Barrett Fine Gael
Galway East John Donnellan Fine Gael (moved to Galway West) Paul Connaughton, Snr Fine Gael
Mark Killilea, Jnr Fianna Fáil (moved to Galway West) Kitt: Former TD Michael P. Kitt Fianna Fáil
Thomas Hussey Fianna Fáil Lost seat Seat abolished
Galway West John Mannion, Jnr Fine Gael Retired (Donnellan: from Galway East) John Donnellan Fine Gael
Seat added Michael D. Higgins Labour Party
Bill Loughnane Fianna Fáil (moved to Clare) (Killilea moved from Galway East) Mark Killilea, Jnr Fianna Fáil
Kerry North Kit Ahern Fianna Fáil Lost seat Denis Foley Fianna Fáil
Dan Spring Labour Party Retired Dick Spring Labour Party
Kerry South Timothy O'Connor Fianna Fáil Lost seat Michael Moynihan Labour Party
Kildare Seat added Bernard Durkan Fine Gael
Seat added Alan Dukes Fine Gael
Laois–Offaly Patrick Lalor Fianna Fáil Retired Liam Hyland Fianna Fáil
Limerick East Michael Herbert Fianna Fáil Retired Peadar Clohessy Fianna Fáil
Michael Lipper Labour Party Lost seat Jim Kemmy Independent
Seat added Michael Noonan Fine Gael
Limerick West No membership changes
Longford–Westmeath Joseph Sheridan Independent Retired Cooney: Former TD Patrick Cooney Fine Gael
Louth Paddy Donegan Fine Gael Retired Bernard Markey Fine Gael
Joseph Farrell Fianna Fáil Retired Republican prisoner in Long Kesh, not on hunger strike. Paddy Agnew Anti H-Block
Mayo East No membership changes
Mayo West No membership changes
Meath Seat added John Farrelly Fine Gael
Roscommon Joan Burke Fine Gael Retired John Connor Fine Gael
Sligo–Leitrim James Gallagher Fianna Fáil Retired John Ellis Fianna Fáil
Eugene Gilhawley Fine Gael Retired Joe McCartin Fine Gael
Seat added Ted Nealon Fine Gael
Tipperary North Michael O'Kennedy Fianna Fáil Retired David Molony Fine Gael
Tipperary South Noel Davern Fianna Fáil Retired Carrie Acheson Fianna Fáil
Seat added Seán McCarthy Fianna Fáil
Waterford No membership changes
Wexford Seán Browne Fianna Fáil Lost seat Hugh Byrne Fianna Fáil
Seat added Ivan Yates Fine Gael
Wicklow Seat added Brennan: Former TD Paudge Brennan Fianna Fáil

See also


  1. Penniman, Howard Rae; Farrell, Brian; Research, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy (1 June 1987). Ireland at the polls, 1981, 1982, and 1987: a study of four general elections. Duke University Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-8223-0786-0. Retrieved 23 October 2010.
  2. "22nd Dáil 1981 General Election". Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  3. "Dáil elections since 1918". ARK Northern Ireland. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  4. Nohlen, D & Stöver, P (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, pp1009-1017 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
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