Irish general election, 1981

Irish general election, 1981

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 the Republic of Ireland for 166 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann. The number of seats in the Dáil was increased 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.

Charles Haughey and Fianna Fáil seemed extremely popular with the electorate. He had wanted to call the general election for early in the year, however a series of events led to the postponement of the election until the summer. By that stage much of the earlier optimism in the party had filtered out. The party still offered a very attractive manifesto, promising the electorate more spending programmes. Fine Gael also put forward a series of tax-cutting plans. Both the main parties policies seemed completely unrealistic, particularly since the national debt of the country was spiralling out of control.


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 suffered the loss of 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 the seventh Taoiseach.

First time TDs

A total of 50 TDs were elected for the first time:

* Carrie Acheson
* Paddy Agnew
* Bernard Allen
* Michael Barrett
* Seán Barrett
* George Birmingham
* Séamus Brennan
* Hugh Byrne
* Peadar Clohessy
* Paul Connaughton
* John Connor
* Liam T. Cosgrave
* Hugh Coveney
* Frank Crowley
* Kieran Doherty
* Alan Dukes (Appointed Minister for Agriculture on his first day in the Dáil.)
* Bernard Durkan
* John Ellis
* John Farrelly
* Nuala Fennell
* Liam Fitzgerald
* Mary Flaherty
* Brian Fleming
* Denis Foley
* Pat "the Cope" Gallagher
* Alice Glenn
* Mary Harney
* Michael D. Higgins
* Liam Hyland
* Carey Joyce
* Jim Kemmy
* Seán Loftus
* Denis Lyons
* Bernard Markey
* Seán McCarthy
* Joe McCartin
* Gay Mitchell
* David Molony
* Michael Moynihan
* Ted Nealon
* Michael Noonan
* Toddy O'Sullivan
* Nora Owen
* Alan Shatter
* P. J. Sheehan
* Joe Sherlock
* Dick Spring
* Mervyn Taylor
* Madeleine Taylor-Quinn
* Ivan Yates, becoming the fourth youngest-ever TD

Retiring TDs

* Liam Cosgrave
* Jack Lynch
* Mark Clinton
* Paddy Donegan
* Michael Herbert
* John Mannion, Jnr

Outgoing TDs

* Kit Ahern (lost seat)
* Luke Belton (lost seat)
* Barry Cogan (lost seat)
* Jimmy Leonard (lost seat)
* Timothy Killeen (lost seat)

ee also

* Members of the 22nd Dáil
* Government of the 22nd Dáil
* Ministers of State of the 22nd Dáil

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