Monday 19 March 2018

Echoes of 1948 as Independents rise again

John A Costello emerged as the Taoiseach after the 1948 election
John A Costello emerged as the Taoiseach after the 1948 election
John Downing

John Downing

The 1948 general election - the one nobody won due to huge political fragmentation - may offer clues about the aftermath of the next general election.

The line-up after polling day on February 4, 1948, was as follows: Fianna Fáil had 68 TDs - 10 short of an overall majority.

Fine Gael were on 31. Labour had 14. National Labour (which split from Labour in 1943) had five TDs. Clann na Talmhan had seven. Newcomers Clann na Poblachta had 10.

There were 12 Independent TDs with highly indivualistic personalities and very disparate political views, several of whom had quarrelled with many other political parties.

There was John "The Fiddler" Flynn from Kerry, who had split with Fianna Fáil after a widely-publicised court case. Patrick Cogan, a farmer from the Carlow-Wicklow border, had been in Fine Gael, briefly formed his own National Agricultural Party, briefly then joined Clann na Talmhan, went Independent, and would eventually join Fianna Fáil.

There was 10-times Lord Mayor of Dublin Alfie Byrne, the last Dáil link to the Irish Parliamentary Party, and his son, Alfie Junior. There was James Dillon, son of the last Irish Party leader, former Fine Gael member and future leader of that party. And there was the larger-than-life Oliver J Flanagan, also a future long-time Fine Gael member.

Dillon and Flanagan pulled the Independents into a coherent group with regular meetings. Dillon took an independent seat at Cabinet as agriculture minister and reported back to his colleagues at all stages.

John A Costello of Fine Gael emerged as a compromise Taoiseach. The 12 Cabinet seats were shared strictly in accordance with the number of TDs. It was a "non-Fianna Fáil government" tapping into the mood for change, and lasted three-and-a-half years, until May 1951.

April 9, 2016 is latest day for vote

Here is why April 9, 2016, is the latest possible date for an election:

By law, a Dáil term is fixed at a maximum of five years, counting from the first day that parliament met after the general election.

This 31st Dáil first met on March 9, 2011.

Law also states a general election must happen within a maximum of 25 days after the Dáil is dissolved.

Electoral law further stipulates that Sundays, public holidays, and Good Friday are not counted as part of that countdown period.

Thus, Saturday, April 9, 2016, is the absolute latest date for the next general election to be held.

Irish Independent

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