3rd Year: Inter-Party Governments & Seán Lemass

Seán Lemass on the cover of Time magazine.
Behind him (and the leprechaun), are factories showing
how Ireland was becoming industrialised.
© TIME
Main Page: Ireland After Independence

Fianna Fáil's defeat in 1948 came because the other parties in the Dáil, led by Fine Gael, joined together to form what we call the "Inter-Party Government". This government was led by John A. Costello as Taoiseach. Costello's government is most famous for declaring Ireland as a republic (so the Irish Free State became the Republic of Ireland) and for the controversy surrounding the Mother and Child Scheme, planned by his Health Minister Noel Browne.

Costello and de Valera were both in and out of power during the late 1940s and 1950s, but by 1957 Ireland was back to a long-term Fianna Fáil government. Two years later, de Valera finally retired as Taoiseach and was elected President. The new Fianna Fáil Taoiseach was Seán Lemass, who had been the Minister for Industry in all of de Valera's governments.

Lemass wanted to modernise Ireland. He encouraged the growth of industry and he promoted several young faces to become ministers. His government brought in free secondary education for all children, and Lemass was the first Taoiseach to meet the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1965. RTÉ was set up and Ireland had its own TV station for the first time. Lemass retired in 1966 and was succeeded by Jack Lynch, who looked forward to continuing Lemass' work. Unfortunately, by the end of the 1960s, things weren't going to seem as bright anymore.

Continue to Ireland in the 70s and 80s




  • Inter-Party Government: Who formed it, Declaration of the Republic, IDA, Marshall Aid, Rural electrification, Mother & Child Scheme.
  • Seán Lemass and Fianna Fáil: First Programme for Economic Expansion, visiting Terence O'Neill, free secondary education.




Click here for exam questions you can be asked about this topic. (Higher and Ordinary)

PEOPLE IN HISTORY (HL and OL)
A named political leader in the Republic of Ireland, 1960-85
(2014 HL, 2012 HL, 2008 HL, 2010 OL, 2009 OL)




John A. Costello, Taoiseach 1948-51, 54-57



Watch out for bias, prejudice and propaganda!

Fianna Fáil: Seán Lemass
The Fianna Fáíl website's biography of Seán Lemass.

RTÉ News: Liam Cosgrave talks about John A. Costello (video)
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave (son of W.T.), who served in Costello's government, spoke about him at the launch of a biography of Costello in 2010. 

Dáil Records: Taoiseach John A. Costello's speech on declaring a Republic
The full transcript of Costello's speech to the Dáil in 1948 on why he was declaring a Republic. Long read, but you might be interested.

Essay on the Mother and Child Crisis
Exactly what it says on the tin. This is a personal essay, so opinions form a big part of it. Read it like a historian would.

JFK in Ireland
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library has a piece on JFK's visit to Ireland in 1963. Kennedy was the first Irish-American Catholic to become President of the United States.

JFK writes about his visit to Ireland
After the visit , JFK wrote back to Dot Tubridy (aunt of Ryan) about how much he enjoyed his visit.

Newsreel of Kennedy's visit
British Pathé have a newsreel showing Kennedy landing in Dublin airport and meeting President de Valera.

RTÉ TV50: The History of RTÉ
Radió Teilifís Éireann was launched on New Years' Eve 1961. Read about its entire history here as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations.