History of Fine Gael - Inter-Party Governments

Inter-Party Governments

When the votes were counted in the 1948 general election, Fine Gael had 31 seats. While not disastrous given the number of young candidates returned and that the purely party vote had been retained despite the loss of key personalities, it was still a result that showed little promise for the future. However, Fianna Fáil had not won an overall majority. Fine Gael found itself in government, when all the anti-Fianna Fáil parties between them won enough seats in that year's general election to oust Fianna Fáil and take power. However, some of the other parties in the new first Inter-Party Government considered Fine Gael's leader, General Richard Mulcahy, to be too controversial a potential Taoiseach.

Notably, Clann na Poblachta (under former anti-Treaty IRA chief of staff, Sean MacBride), were opposed to him because of his role as Chief of Staff of the Irish Army in the execution of republicans during the Irish Civil War. Mulcahy selflessly stepped aside and former Attorney-General John A. Costello was chosen to head the government, which lasted from 1948 to 1951. Costello was an effective chairman of a coalition comprising many different shades of opinion. That Government is remembered for establishing the Industrial Development Authority and the formal declaration of a republic in 1949. Also a record number of houses were built, improvements were made in the tourism industry and the health minister Noel Browne successfully tackled the tuberculosis disease. Costello also headed the Second Inter-Party Government, which had a much stronger Fine Gael representation, from 1954 to 1957. Fine Gael's Foreign Minister Liam Cosgrave negotiated Ireland's entry to the United Nations in 1955 and, in doing so, defined Irish foreign policy for decades. The party's Health Minister Tom O'Higgins introduced the Voluntary Health Insurance Board (VHI) and thus established Ireland's partly insurance-based health service that persists today. Fianna Fáil and de Valera were returned to power in 1957, banishing Fine Gael once more to the opposition benches.

Costello's Government, although it decided against the re-introduction of internment, responded to the activities of Saor Uladh and the mainstream IRA by stepping up security measures against these groups, leading to the arrest of prominent republicans. In response to this and to a rapid deterioration in the state of the economy, Clann na Poblachta withdrew its support and Costello was left with no choice other than to call an election.

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