The Way We Were

With the election underway down South, I’ve heard a couple of uncomfortable references recently to the 1977 election spectre. While it may be embarrassing looking back on it, it was great fun at the time. The picture shows a copy of the much maligned Manifesto. It never fails to provide me with either a laugh or a salutory reminder of how far we have travelled and progressed. There is a wonderful innocence and naievity about this document, even down to the way it is phrased and indeed typed. It wouldn’t see the light of day in Mount Street now, I have no doubt. I wonder how many other copies are out there? The 1977 election was where I cut my political teeth, and if nothing else I am minded of how we can believe something unquestiongly and faithfully at a given time, indeed to the point of defending those beliefs with great passion. Not matter what the issue or subject, its always worth sitting back a little back and allowing another point of view to be heard or expressed. You may still not want to believe it, but as life moves on you, you will be all the richer for allowing your mind to be a little more open.

I was tempted to copy out some of the sections of the Manifesto for people to read and review, but life is too short. However, if anyone is interested in a particular section, I would be happy to oblige. I am always fascinated by the fact that Northern Ireland got the shortest set of promises, and the smallest insert in here.

  • austin

    very interesting Miss Fitz. How did the electorate react when the promised sweeteners didn’t arrive? How long was the term of office of the Government?

  • Rogues Gallery

    All elected for the first time in 1977:

    Bertie Ahern
    Kit Ahern
    Niall Andrews
    Liam Aylward
    John Boland
    Gerard Brady
    Vincent Brady
    Barry Cogan
    Hugh Conaghan
    Michael Joe Cosgrave
    Michael D’Arcy
    Síle de Valera
    Austin Deasy
    Seán Doherty
    Edward Filgate
    Jim Fitzsimons
    Pádraig Flynn
    Christopher Fox
    John Horgan
    Michael Keating
    Seán Keegan
    Patrick Kerrigan
    Timothy Killeen
    Mark Killilea, Jnr
    Liam Lawlor
    Eileen Lemass
    Thomas Leonard
    Terry Leyden
    Michael Lipper
    John Mannion
    Charlie McCreevy
    Jim Mitchell
    P. J. Morley
    William O’Brien
    Martin O’Donoghue
    Rory O’Hanlon
    Jim O’Keeffe
    Paddy O’Toole
    Ruairi Quinn
    Albert Reynolds
    Joe Walsh
    Michael Woods

    Some familiar names……….

  • Rogues Gallery


    The government lasted until June 1981 when it fell to a Fine Gael/Labour Coalition.

  • Miss Fitz

    There was a celebration dinner in December of that year, and I still have the menu card signed by many in the gallery above.

  • vinty

    The brown envelopes must have been in plentiful supply.

    Corruption at its best.

  • Miss Fitz

    To be fair, I think that this period may have just preceded the ‘brown envelope’ days. I could be wrong about that, but there was a real sense of optimism and a new dynamic. I think that it had disappeared within 5 years or less perhaps, but that in 1977 there was a sense of being genuine and the dawning of a new day.

  • jerryp

    On the night of the results, Jack Lynch said privately that the huge majority would prove troublesome as it would allow indiscipline within the parliamentary party. He was gone within 2 years after a Haughey – engineered revolt.

  • Marie Antoinette

    So what is so funny about this? That a government with MI5 agents was running the heavy gang against Republicans? That Dublin had been bombed? That economic ocnditions were different? That there was no abortion? That Kerry’s 4 in a row team were doing their damndest? Let’s hope the psychiatric nurses get back to work soon.

  • A N Other


    Don’t mean to be pedantic but…

    Kerry’s 4-in-a-row started in 1978. Doesn’t Miss Fitz’s caption refer to the pre-election mood of the electorate?

  • The ’70s were the great false dawn for the Republic. The Ken Whittaker reforms had brought the economy out of the deep-freeze of the ’40s and ’50s, joining the EEC had given the State new markets and the élite, at the very least, a new confidence and that touchstone of Irish national wellbeing, emigration, had actually gone into reverse with a considerable number of successful Irish émigrés returning from Britain and the States.

    Then it all went tits up in the late ’70s, government spending got out of control, inflation went through the roof and unemployment went up with it, and by about ’83 the queues at the American Embassy for work permits stretched for about two miles, etc., etc.

    That ’77-’81 FF government has a lot to answer for, but I’m not sure that a FG/Labour coalition would have done any better. The big problem in the Republic’s political system is that all the parties tend to subscribe to whatever the fashionable economic doctrine of the time is. That’s great if, like over the past 15-20 years, that doctrine has produced results, but if it’s damaging nonsense liek protectionsim from the ’30s to the ’50s or inflation generating tax’n’spend Keynsianism on steroids like in the late ’70s and ’80s, it tends to lock the country in a bit of a vicious spiral.

    I rather suspect NI will end up the same way.

  • Miss Fitz

    I think it stands to be de-constructed even more than that. It seems to me that this Manifesto was emblematic of a need to buy approval and purchase power. Interestingly, in much the same way the FF manifesto to be released later today is going to use the sweetener of the abolition of stamp duty for first time buyers to improve the mood of the electorate.

    I remember the first speech I ever gave at a youth conference, and the main gist was the lack of infrastructure extant in the country at that time. (1975) Even with the mini boom, I believe that the need to please and remain in power overcame the issue of strategic national planning in the way that Whittaker did it in the 50’s. Perhaps that was the role that O’Donoghue attempted to recreate, but he had two masters.

    I have been led to believe that some of the measures to have come from this manifesto led to the economic downturn of the 80’s, forcing emigration to become the solution yet again for so many of my generation.

  • pith

    What did it say on N. Ireland?

  • Interestingly, in much the same way the FF manifesto to be released later today is going to use the sweetener of the abolition of stamp duty for first time buyers to improve the mood of the electorate.

    Yup, and which by adding fuel to a desperately overinflated housing bubble might just be the thing that gets it to go ‘pop’!

    There are enough strengths in the Southern economy for the Republic never to go back to the bad old days of the ’80s, but when my generation, us “Pope’s Children” work out that basically we’ve been screwed over by our parents and gradparents, there might be political hell to pay.

  • Miss Fitz

    A central aim of Fianna Fail policy is to secure by peaceful means, the unity and independence of Ireland as a democratic republic. We totally reject the use of force as a means of achieving this.

    Any progress on the lines suggested in Fianna Fails policy statement on the North, published in 1975, would add greatly to the impact of our economic strategy by promoting confidence both North and South and facilitating a return to a normal economic and tourist environment.

    1977 FF Manifesto, p.44