Constituencies of Ireland, 1977 - 1981

1969 - 1977                                                                                                                     1981 - 1997

After the 1973 general election, Fianna Fáil found itself outnumbered in the Dáil by Fine Gael and Labour. Eager to govern having spent more than a decade in Opposition, the two parties formed a coalition government - beginning a trend that continues on to this day. Despite their success, the confidence of the two parties was rather shaky. The last time they had been in government was in the second Inter-Party coalition from 1957 to 1959. Neither had managed more than three years at a time in government since Fianna Fáil began governing in 1932.

The confidence displayed by Fianna Fáil, even in Opposition, was unmatched. Twice in the past 14 years, Fianna Fáil had attempted to introduce the First Past the Post electoral system to Irish politics, though both attempts were rejected by the electorate. Fine Gael and Labour, shaken by their perennial Opposition status, would have been all but annihilated by such a system. In the late 1960s the two parties considered an official merger in order to form a stronger alternative to Fianna Fáil, though this idea did not come to fruition.

When the two parties found themselves in government, therefore, they were anxiously aware of the possibility of being replaced by Fianna Fáil in the next election. In an effort to avoid this, the government pursued a by now well-worn course of action: amending the electoral constituency boundaries.

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This revision was headed by the Minister for Local Government James Tully (Labour - Meath). To this point it had been common practise for the government of the day to tweak the boundaries to enhance its own success at the next election, but Tully's revisions were done with this explicitly in mind. In what became known as the "Tullymander", the constituencies were re-arranged in such a way as to maximise the number of three-seat constituencies, particularly in Dublin. It was hoped that one each of these seats would go to the three main parties in the next election, which would result in Fianna Fáil being outnumbered by the coalition in each constituency, ensuring the latter's re-election.

Many of the revisions saw drastic changes in constituencies across the country:
  • In Dublin, the city was carved into nine 3-seat constituencies, with the county divided into five more (including a 4-seat Dún Laoghaire). Some of these constituencies spilled in to neighbouring Kildare and Wicklow.  
  • Connacht also saw some notable changes with the extension of Galway into northern Clare. 
  • Ulster saw Donegal unified and Cavan and Monaghan merged into a single constituency which has remained in place since. 
  • In Leinster, outside of Dublin, Carlow-Kilkenny expanded in to Wexford while Meath took parts of Kildare and Louth - Tully was particularly interested in maximising the Labour vote in Meath as it was his own constituency. 
  • Munster saw relatively minor chages, the only notable exception being the merging of the two Cork city constituencies into one, the restoration of Waterford and a new border dividing Tipperary.
    The next general election, the first at which these boundaries came in to effect, was in 1977. It was a disaster for the coalition, which lost 16 seats between them against Fianna Fáil's gained 19. The "Tullymander" had backfired horribly on the government. Besides Fianna Fáil's record best election result, the legacy of the "Tullymander" was the creation of an independent boundary commission (now the Constituency Commission) which has overseen every subsequent revision of the constituency boundaries. The days of governments adjusting the borders and seats for their own gain had ended quite memorably.

    1969 - 1977                                                                                                                     1981 - 1997