The Times We Lived In
The calm before the gathering storm
Fianna Fáil leader Jack Lynch watches Liam Cosgrave conceding that he has lost the 1977 general election
A H, the razzmatazz of politics. The coloured balloons, the speeches, the flag-waving. The heady triumph of winning a general election. Or then again you could have politics, Irish-style. A man with a pipe looking at an ancient television screen upon which the image of another man is smeared in blurry black-and-white.
Not for nothing, it seems, did they call Jack Lynch “The Reluctant Taoiseach”. Hand in pocket, leaning on a chair, he hardly seems thrilled by the prospect of a second term as leader of the Dáil; indeed, he regards the face of his defeated rival, Liam Cosgrave, with the mildly disinterested air of a vegetarian watching a telly chef run up a spot of Beef Wellington.
In reality, the election result had confounded pundits and politicians alike. The outgoing Fine Gael-Labour coalition had been widely predicted to bag itself a second term in office, thanks not least to the controversial rejigging of constituency boundaries known to history as “Tullymandering” after the then minister for local government, James Tully, who oversaw it. Fianna Fáil, for its part, drew up a manifesto which promised the electorate a string of financial “sweeteners” including the abolition of car tax and domestic rates.
If only politics could take a leaf out of technology’s book, and actually change for the better with the passage of time. If the Taoiseach’s path to power strikes us as all too familiar, his telly has a fabulously retro look – as does the turntable which can be seen to the left of the screen. Shame we can’t see what he had in his record collection. Abba? The Bee Gees? Rod Stewart? Or perhaps, to celebrate his election victory, The Eagles’ song Life in the Fast Lane ?
It’s far from the fast lane he is here. “The picture,” recalls our photographer Peter Thursfield, “was taken at Jack Lynch’s home on Garville Avenue, Rathgar on a beautiful June evening in 1977. There were only a few people in the house at the time and the atmosphere was calm.”
It didn’t last. Lynch’s second term in office was to prove stormy in the extreme, not least inside his own party. He resigned in 1979, paving the way for Charles J Haughey to become Taoiseach. Politics, Irish-style, would never be the same again.
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