16 February 1932: A General Election held in the Irish Free State on this day. The president of the Executive Council, W.T. Cosgrave, [above top] called the election early as he wished to have it out of the way in time for the Commonwealth Conference of that year. There was growing unrest in the country and he felt that a fresh mandate was needed. He fought the campaign on a programme of bringing political stability to the State and that a change of Government would see people sympathetic to republicanism and communism in power.
Eamon De Valera [above below] on the other hand promised to free IRA prisoners, abolish the Oath to the King of England and to reduce the powers of the Governor General. He also indicated that more equitable social policies would be introduced at a time when the Great Depression was in full swing.
The general election took place in 30 parliamentary constituencies throughout the Irish Free State for 153 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann. In the event there was a change of Government and Eamon de Valera won the contest. Fianna Fáil received 566,498 votes and won 72 seats as opposed to Cosgrave’s Cumann na nGaedhael, which got 449,506 votes and secured 57 seats.
The Labour Party returned with just 7 seats on a vote from 98,286 of the electorate. While De Valera was still five seats short of an overall majority, he struck an informal deal with the Labour Party to back him up. On that basis he was able to govern the Free State with a fair deal of parliamentary political stability over the next few years.
This change of government marked a watershed in the history of the State as De Valera went on to abolish the Oath to the King of England [that all T.D.s who entered Dáil Éireann had to take], release the prisoners and to gave the State a much more Republican flavour including a new Constitution some years later. He remained in power through an unbroken series of election victories until 1948.