By 1997, Ireland was an emerging Celtic Tiger with rising prosperity through agricultural exports, and booming finance and construction sectors. The ruling Fine Gael/Labour coalition was in the rare position of being able to boast a budget surplus. The 1997 election produced an unusual realignment. Fine Gael actually gained votes (up 3.4 per cent) and seats (+7), but lost power through the collapse in support for its erstwhile partner the Labour party. Commentators believed this resulted from Labour’s fickleness in abandoning its previous coalition with Fianna Fáil midway through the preceding parliamentary term. Sinn Féin also won their first seat since 1957, and the Socialist Party their first ever seat in an Irish Parliament (Dublin West). Fianna Fáil, who had gained ten seats were able to form a governing coalition with the Progressive Democrats, beginning 14 years in continuous power before their decimation in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis.
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