In Northern Ireland, the 1959 general election came during a period of renewed republican violence. Operation Harvest was launched by the IRA on 11 December 1956. The campaign focused largely on the border areas, with Belfast being intentionally excluded to avoid sectarian reprisal. Many of the attacks were executed by IRA flying columns made up of members from all over the Republic. Brookeborough made full use of the security forces and powers available to him but he also effectively restrained elements that called for retaliatory actions against the Catholic community. Although the campaign never really gained widespread support among the Catholic population of Northern Ireland, funerals of IRA casualties attracted enormous crowds in the Republic.
In the 1957 Dail elections, four Sinn Fein candidates were elected on an abstentionist ticket but more significantly, the election also saw the return to power of Fianna Fail under the leadership of Eamon de Valera. The new government quickly took steps to reintroduce internment without trial, which was already in effect in Northern Ireland. By the autumn of 1958, as the campaign began to wane, there were close to 400 internees, North and South, and many other republican activists in gaol or dead.
The result of the election in Northern Ireland clearly reflected the divisive nature of the IRA campaign on the Catholic population. It appears a large percentage of Catholics avoided the polls altogether. Turnout fell to 65.9% compared to 74.1% in 1955. Support for Sinn Fein also plummeted to 11% compared to 23.6% in 1955. The Unionists achieved their best result since 1924, winning 77.2% of the vote and all 12 seats for the first time since 1929. The NILP managed a slight increase on their 1955 result, winning 7.7% of the vote.
This map by Conal Kelly shows the winner in each constituency in 1959.
|Party||Votes||% Share||Seats Won|
, East Belfast, Fermanagh & South Tyrone,
Londonderry, Mid Ulster,
North Belfast, North Down,
South Antrim, South Belfast, South Down and West Belfast)
Other sites based at ARK: ORB (Online Research Bank) | CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) | Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey
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Conal Kelly, 1 June 2007.
Disclaimer:© Nicholas Whyte 2005 Last Updated on Saturday, May 07, 2005 09:42:49