Election Crisis: 1992 winter election gave way to a Spring Tide

Today is the 25th anniversary of the last winter poll — unless you’re a meteorologist and count the last two general elections, held in February, as winter votes.

On November 25, 1992, a healthy 68.5% of registered voters trundled out to their polling stations and elected another Fianna Fáil government, although it took six weeks of negotiations for a coalition to be formed.

The previous alliance of Albert Reynolds’s Fianna Fáil and Des O’Malley’s Progressive Democrats was replaced by a Fianna Fáil-Labour partnership in January 1993. O’Malley’s comments about shenanigans at the Beef Tribunal were instrumental in the snap election being called, and his party increased its share of Dáil Éireann seats from six to 10.

However, with Fianna Fáil losing nine of the 77 seats it won in 1989 — and John Bruton’s Fine Gael doing even worse by dropping 10 to 45 — the clear winner was Dick Spring’s Labour. In the so-called Spring Tide, his party boosted their Dáil representation from 15 to 33.

Cork Examiner headlines the week the election was called show how the same old topics seem to crop up.

Garda representatives called for law and order to be a top priority for candidates, and ‘pro-life’ groups declared they would not contest seats but would be asking all who did for their stance on abortion. The issues was the subject of three referendums on the day of the election 1992.

If the current crop of TDs fear voter apathy about a winter election, it is notable that the 68.5% turnout was the same as the participation level in the May 1989 general election. The 1997 general election took place in May, but only 66% of eligible voters cast a ballot. Turnout dropped even further to 63% in 2002 and only reached 67% in 2007, both national polls being held in April.

The 2011 and 2016 election were both held in February, with 70% and 65% turnouts.


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