Support for Irish government set to fall

Ballot papers are verified and counted at the City Hall in CorkImage copyright
Chris Radburn

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Ballot papers are verified and counted at the City Hall in Cork

Exit polls in the Republic of Ireland’s general election suggest Fine Gael will remain the largest party, but with only a narrow lead over the main opposition, Fianna Fáil.

All indications are that the outgoing Fine Gael-Labour coalition cannot be returned.

Polls show Sinn Féin, smaller parties and Independents are also doing well.

Independent candidate Shane Ross was the first person to be elected to the Dáil (Irish parliament).

He was elected in Dublin Rathdown on the second count.

Eoin Ó Broin was the first Sinn Féin candidate to be elected, after being returned on the first count in Dublin Mid-West.

Mr O’Broin is a former party councillor in Belfast.

Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald, the outgoing justice minister, has also been elected in Dublin Mid-West.

Fianna Fáil have also had their first TD elected, Sean Fleming in Laois.

Many believe the expected result could make negotiations on forming a new government extremely difficult.

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Fianna Fáil’s Sean Fleming celebrates after being elected in Laois

The final outcome of many seats will depend on transfers in later counts.


Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described the election as an “extraordinary vote” and said he was “very pleased”.

“A lot will depend on the destination of the last seats in many constituencies, it’s a bit too early to be definitive, but it’s clear we’re going to have a good day,” he said.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary-Lou McDonald said that she expects the party will be putting leader Gerry Adams forward to be the next Taoiseach (Irish prime minister).

Her party colleague Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, said it had been a hugely successful election for Sinn Féin.

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Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness has hailed his party’s performance in the election

“My sense is that a government will be formed, I don’t think there will be a second election within weeks. How stable a government, that remains to be seen,” he said.

Fine Gael’s director of elections Brian Hayes said he did not believe that the party’s campaign strategy had cost it votes, but rather that the public was simply unhappy with the measures taken by the government during its term.

“There was no problem with the strategy. The difficulty was the government was unpopular,” he said.

The general secretary of the Labour Party, Brian McDowell, said the poll results had made it a “very disappointing” day for the party.

“The people have spoken, we’ll have to reflect early next week, but it does look like Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are the only likely combination at this stage,” he added.

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The count is under way at the RDS in Dublin

Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil had indicated that they would not go into coalition with each other.

However, pressure is expected to mount on them to come to some form of arrangement that may take several weeks to arrive at.

An exit poll commissioned by the Irish Times suggested Fine Gael will remain the largest party with 26%, with Fianna Fáil close behind on 23%.

A poll from Irish broadcaster RTÉ on Saturday morning indicated broadly similar results.

Hung parliament

If borne out by the count, the vote shares would result in a hung Dáil (parliament), but with Fine Gael still taking the largest number of seats.

Over three million people were entitled to vote in Friday’s poll in 40 constituencies, which will return 157 members of parliament, known as TDs. The ceann comhairle (speaker) is automatically returned.

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AFP/Getty Images

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Special arrangements were made for Irish islands, such as Inishfree off the west coast, where voters cast their ballots a day before the rest of the electorate

The campaign was fought mainly over economic issues, with the government parties asking voters for their support to keep the recovery going at a time when international storm clouds are gathering.

But the opposition parties countered that not everyone, especially outside of middle-class Dublin, is yet benefiting from the up-turn.

The Republic of Ireland has had the biggest growing economy in the eurozone for the last two years.

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Leon Neal

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Just over 550 candidates are standing for election

TDs will be elected according to the single transferable vote (STV) system, in which candidates have to reach a quota, before their surplus votes are distributed to others.


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