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Friday, 18 May 2012

18 May 1954 - John A. Costello

18 May 1954: A General Election held in the Republic of Ireland, as a result of which Fianna Fáil and Eamon DeValera lost power. John A. Costello was elected as Taoiseach on the 2 June at the head of a coalition government, comprising members of the Fine Gael, Labour & supported by the Clann na Talmhan Party.

The election was called by An Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Eamon DeValera in order to secure a better balance of seats in Dáil Éireann so as to maintain his position for another five years. In March 1954 Fianna Fáil lost badly in two bye elections, cutting Dev's majority to a razor sharp edge. He then decided to nip this falling off in support in the bud and put himself before the People once again. But with the Economy on the slide and prices rising combined with huge levels of Emigration the strategy of calling another election after just three years in power was a risky one. 74 seats were needed for a majority in the House.

In the event Fianna Fáil did less badly than many expected, returning  66 TDs to Leinster House (the seat of the Irish Parliament).

The leader of the opposition was General Richard Mulcahy, ex Chief of Staff of the Free State Army in the Irish Civil War (1922-1923). The Party he led was Fine Gael and they had a good election, winning 8 extra seats for a total of 50 TDs.

The Labour Party under William Norton came in with 19 members returned and was prepared (as in 1948) to form a Coalition with Fine Gael in order to get into Government .

The small farmers party Clann na Talmhan under Joseph Blowick won 5 seats and was thus in a good position to negotiate with the other opposition parties to be included in a Government that could sustain itself against potential parliamentary challenges in the House.

Clann na Poblachta under Sean McBride had but 3 seats (a shell of its former self) and decided to stay on the sidelines and though supporting the Coalition to refuse any offer of seats at the Cabinet table.

Due to the sensitivities of the time in relation to what had happened in the Irish Civil War it was decided (as in 1948) that General Mulcahy would not put his name forward for the position as Taoiseach and once again John A. Costello was elected to the Office. Mulcahy became Minister for Education in the Second Inter-Party Government.

However Mr Costello's new Government was no more successful in stemming the tide of emigration and economic stagnation than DeValera had been and in 1957 his administration would be thrown out of office in the General Election of that year.

The 15th Dáil that was elected at the 1954 general election on 18 May 1954  first met on 2 June when the 7th Government of Ireland was appointed. It lasted for 1,022 days.