June 16th, 1951
FROM THE ARCHIVES:The outcome of the 1951 general election was decided by five Independents, including former members of the outgoing inter-party government, who backed Eamon de Valera as Taoiseach. Under his pseudonym Nichevo, Bertie Smyllie commented on the surprise result.
IT HAS been a most exciting week. When it began we all thought that the inter-Party Government was home and dried; but we were wrong. So soon as it became known that Dr. Noel Browne and Dr. Michael ffrench-O’Carroll had decided to support Fianna Fail, it became fairly obvious that Mr. de Valera would be Taoiseach again. I feel rather bitter about it because I lost a couple of small bets, but let that pass! Quite honestly, I did not believe that either Dr. Browne or Dr. ffrench-O’Carroll would burn their political boats so completely.
[Both had been members of Clann na Poblachta in the out-going government which collapsed over Browne’s “Mother and Child” health scheme.] Dr. Browne came into politics largely in order to get Mr. de Valera and his supporters out of office. In 1948 [the previous election], he was most outspoken about Fianna Fail’s failure to cope with the “T.B.” problem.
He won his seat in Dublin South-West not so much because he was a member of the Clann na Poblachta team as because he was against Fianna Fail.
Now he has gone over to the former enemy, and, this country being what it is, there will be many who will interpret his vote on Wednesday as a “spite” vote, although, from what I know of Noel Browne, he is quite incapable of such pettiness.
Dr. ffrench-O’Carroll is in a different case. He won his seat in Dublin South-West because he supported Dr. Browne through thick and thin, but it is hard to see how he got a mandate from his constituents to put Fianna Fail back into power, and in the event it was his vote that was decisive. Mr. Costello [outgoing Taoiseach] was defeated for the post of Taoiseach by 74 votes to 72. If Dr. ffrench-O’Carroll had voted for him, instead of against him, the result would have been a tie, and the Speaker would have been bound to give his casting vote in favour of the status quo . . . These two young men have taken upon themselves a tremendously heavy responsibility. But, of course, that is their own affair. They are both highly intelligent, as well as transparently honest. Lacking political experience, they may be inclined to be influenced unduly by emotional considerations. At any rate, it was they, in effect, who put the inter-Party Government out. Let us hope that they, and the other Independents who went with them, will contrive to keep Mr. de Valera and his team in check. I certainly do not envy them their job. Still less do I envy Deputy [Patrick] Cogan, who owes his seat in Wicklow to the anti-Fianna Fail vote. When the next election comes along he will find himself in a bit of a spot. [He was.] Le roi est mort: vive le roi! Mr. de Valera’s new Government is a disappointment. Pretty well all the old hands are back again.