Wednesday 17 October 2018

Election speculation looks set to shine all summer long

Sinn Fein isn't a new party but under a new leader it is starting to assert authority

Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Eoin O'Malley

In January 1948, Taoiseach Eamon de Valera called an election. Winter elections aren't popular and Dev had a big majority in the Dail. It seemed odd because Fianna Fail was certain to lose seats. His decision was triggered by the rise of a new political party, Clann na Poblachta, under Sean MacBride, the exotic and quixotic former IRA leader.

The Clann had been formed in 1946 and won two by-elections in late 1947. De Valera calculated that even though it might cost seats, a snap election would prevent the Clann from organising party branches, raising money, and finding candidates. It was a risk, but probably one that paid off.

Clann na Poblachta did well - it overtook Labour - but not well enough, and the decision to go immediately into government was probably fatal for the new party.

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