Updated: 17/10/17 : 07:17:14
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'Debbie' recalls dull election to Dáil

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

WHICH LOCAL TD was elected to Dáil Éireann twice in the same year.

Quite a few as it happens, including Raymond MacSharry and Ted Nealon in Sligo town and Tubbercurry's Mattie Brennan in 1982.

But the question can be further refined to ask which local TD was elected to the Dáil twice in the same year in different types of poll.

Hmm. Have a think about it while thinking that the recall of Hurricane Debbie over the past few days brings to mind one of our dullest ever Dáil elections. 

It shouldn't have been: We had a new and exciting Taoiseach, facing his first election.

Read on Leo!  But the general election called just a week before Hurricane Debbie was no cakewalk for Seán Lemass.

Big Brains

He had been sidekick to Dev for 35 years, in many sense the big brains behind Fianna Fáil.

But he lost his overall majority in that election, held in early October 1961.

Lemass lost seven seats in a swing of nearly five percent against his party.

James Dillon in Fine Gael saw a similar sized swing towards his party.

But Dillon didn't come within an ass's roar of forming a government, as Lemass was just three seats short of an overall majority.

In quieter times and with an economy on the 'up,' Fianna Fáil and Lemass comfortably formed a Cabinet supported by independents.

Sligo and Leitrim voters had given warning to Lemass eight months earlier that 1961 might not be 'his year' at the polls.

Joe McLoughlin, the answer to the quiz above, stormed to a surprise victory in the Sligo and Leitrim by election of March 1st 1961.

The vacancy was a 'Leitrim' one, caused by the death of sitting Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Flynn.

Fianna Fáil picked Bill Farrell, whose wife Mamie died just last week.

His son Pat Farrell later became manager of Sligo General Hospital and later General secretary of Fianna Fáil.

Severe Weather

Meanwhile, Joe McLoughlin had been a councillor since 1950 but had never chased a Dail seat.

But he (comfortably) won the by election by four percent of almost 33,000 votes cast.

The general election called just days before Hurricane Debbie saw McLoughlin hold the seat equally comfortably.

There was no hard evidence in those days that the aftermath of the severe weather 'cost' Lemass any of the crucial seats he needed in his first Dail election as Taoiseach.