FINE Gael and Labour were today about to form the next government with Enda Kenny as Taoiseach. Fianna Fail went into complete meltdown after a voter backlash that has rewritten Irish history.
As counts continued around the country, Fine Gael secured more than 36pc of all votes, followed by Labour at 20.5 pc and Fianna Fail trickled in with just 15pc – and only 8pc of votes in Dublin. It means FG are on track to take more than 72 seats, with Labour taking 38 while FF may have less than 20 seats and Sinn Fein around 12.
After the collapse of Fianna Fail, the big story was how 15.5pc of votes went to the Independents with the likes of Shane Ross, Joe Higgins and Richard Boyd Barrett all likely to grab seats.
Today, Senator Ross accepted the Independents are unlikely to be power brokers in the FG-led government, however. Although the ‘Gilmore Gale' did not reach the expected levels nationwide, Labour was on course for its best ever electoral result. The party stole a march on Fine Gael in Dublin which should be enough to prevent them from achieving an overall majority.
The Dublin results were very much in line with the Herald’s poll earlier this month. A Millward Brown exit poll for RTE predicted that Fine Gael will get 36.1pc of the votes, which is short of an overall majority. This means that Labour, on 20.5pc, will play a major role in the 31st Dail, with Eamon Gilmore almost certain to be Tanaiste.
Counting got underway at 9am but analysts signalled that Fine Gael and Labour would win around 110 of the Dail's 165 seats. Mr Kenny's party will be by far the biggest with in excess of 70 seats, followed by Labour who will be edging towards 40. Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery said: “It's an absolutely amazing and historic election if this poll is right. It means from my party's perspective that we are by far and away the biggest party in Dail Eireann for first time ever.
He added: “I have no doubt at all that Fine Gael will have a historically dramatic result and the great Irish politics of Fianna Fail will have a dramatically horrific election.”
As predicted in a Herald poll last week, Labour is stronger than Fine Gael in the capital but struggled in Connaught/Ulster. The exit poll put Dublin support for Labour at 31pc, well ahead of Fine Gael’s 27pc. “Dublin is the area of greatest interest to me coming out of this election from that point of view. “At 8pc, it’s hard to see Fianna Fail getting any kind of seat,” added Mr Flanery.
A party strategist, David Leech, said despite criticism of its campaign the tide “was shifting in the last four or five days, shifting towards us. It's certainly shaping up to be good day for the Labour party, and we are both relieved and delighted, which will hopefully be borne out in the results later on,” he said.
Independents are also set to make a major breakthrough after taking a higher percentage of the vote than Fianna Fail.
A support level of 15.5pc indicates that there could be up to 20 independent or minority party candidates in the next Dail. Numerically, Fine Gael could seek a minority government supported by Independents but Independent candidate Shane Ross accepted this was now unlikely. The senator was “reasonably confident” he will win a seat in Dublin South, but is disappointed that Fine Gael and Labour will have an overwhelming majority.
“It looks like the natural numbers game will lead to a Fine Gael- Labour coalition. That's disappointing,” he said. Speaking about surge in support for Independents he said: “With both parties, what I found hitting the doors in Dublin south, they are not just completely disillusioned with Fianna Fail, thereis a reluctance to move from one tribal party to another tribal party. There is a huge appetite for something new and I think that's what the 15pc is showing,” he said.
This figure includes votes for the newly-formed United Left Alliance, which includes Richard Boyd Barrett and socialist Joe Higgins among its members. On just 15.1pc Fianna Fail will barely break the 20 seat barrier and high-profile casualties are expected.
After 14 years in power the Government party scored just 8pc in Dublin meaning that minister Mary Hanafin, Pat Carey, Conor Lenihan and Barry Andrews were in serious danger. The Green Party may be able to salvage Trevor Sargent's seat after getting 2.7pc in the exit poll. Sinn Fein scored 10.1pc and will also return to the Dail with a much higher number of seats. firstname.lastname@example.org