Prime Minister Jack Lynch of the Irish Republic on Monday (5th Feb.) called a surprise general election.
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Background: Prime Minister Jack Lynch of the Irish Republic on Monday (5th Feb.) called a surprise general election. In a statement announcing that he had asked President Eamon De Valera to dissolve the Dail (Parliament), Mr. Lynch said he was asking the people for a "clear and decisive mandate" on problems that would have to be faced in the next few months. These "vital issues and the decisions to be taken", he continued in today's statement, "could irrevocable change the whole course of future history".
The Prime Minister is hoping that the election, called for February 28th, will increases the slim and almost unworkable majority of his Fianna Fail party. Since he came to power in 1966, Mr. Lynch has clung to a majority of a single seat in the 144-seat Dail. The main opposition, the Fine Gael party, has 69 seats and the Irish Labour Party 17. The balance of power is held by six Independents.
This knife-edge majority has brought Mr. Lynch's government to the brink of crisis several times, and has prevented much important legislation. In 1970 the Opposition accused two of his leading Cabinet members of gun-running to Northern Ireland. Defeat was averted when the two Ministers were dismissed and a third resigned in sympathy.
His government's downfall came even closer on December 1st last year, when Mr. Lynch proposed tougher powers to stamp out subversive activity, including operations by the outlawed irish Republican Army (I.R.A.).
Opposition to the bill was strong, inside the outside the Dail. Thousands demonstrated in the streets, some accusing Mr. Lynch of being a traitor.
The situation was saved to a large extent by two bomb explosions in Dublin, a common occurrence in Northern Ireland, but almost unknown in the Republic for many decades. The identity of the bombers was never revealed, but the explosions created a desire for law and order that finally enabled the anti-subversion bill to pass through Parliament.