Analyses of recent Irish election results have typically been peppered with superlatives. There has, of course, been much about them to excite political junkies-the electoral breakthrough by the Progressive Democrats (PDs) in 1987, Fianna Fáil’s volte-face on coalition in 1989, the surge by Labour and slump by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in 1992. Notwithstanding the political convulsions provoked both before and after the election by revelations associated with the “payments to politicians” tribunal, however, the 1997 election itself was an eerie oasis of calm-widely considered, indeed, to be one of the most boring in living memory. The opinion polls barely moved throughout the campaign. There were no real scandals or surprises. All of the main parties appeared to agree on all of the main issues. Set pieces such as the TV debates saw the protagonists coached to the hilt and clearly terrified of taking risks. As for the electorate, surges of voters had in recent times been good news for Garret FitzGerald, Dessie O’Malley, Dick Spring, and the Greens and had provided headline news during election campaigns. Those who had surged towards Spring in 1992 did desert him, to be sure, in 1997, but this time they did not seem to concentrate their support on any single alternative. The 1997 election, therefore, was remarkable more for what didn’t happen than for what did.
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