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Irish general election: Second day of counting to get under way

Counting begins in Irish general electionImage copyright
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Ballot boxes are opened at the RDS in Dublin at the start of the Irish general election count on Sunday

The second day of counting is set to get under way following what has been a historic election result for Sinn Féin.

The result has been described as “something of a revolution in the ballot box” by the party’s president Mary Lou McDonald.

With all first preferences counted, the party has taken 24.5% of the vote, compared to 22.2% for Fianna Fáil and 20.9% for Fine Gael.

No one party will win enough seats for an outright majority.

  • Profile of Ireland’s political parties

Before the election, both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil ruled out forming a government with Sinn Féin, citing its tax policies and IRA past as deterrents.

On Sunday evening, taoiseach (Irish PM) and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar said it would be “challenging” to form a government.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin did not rule out working with Sinn Féin, but said “significant incompatibilities” still existed.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she was exploring options to see if it would be possible to form a government without either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.

‘Two-party system is gone’

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme on Monday, Ms McDonald said there was “no doubt the politics of the two-party system is now gone and over”.

“This vote for Sinn Féin is for Sinn Féin to be in government… for Sinn Féin to deliver,” she said.

“My first job of work, and I commenced this yesterday, is to establish with other parties whether or not there are the numbers to deliver a government without Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.”

Ms McDonald said she had already spoken to some of the smaller parties, including the Greens and Solidarity-People Before Profit.

On the more conciliatory tone being struck by Micheál Martin on Sunday, Ms McDonald said she was “very glad” that he “come to his senses”.

Polling in the election closed at 22:00 local time on Saturday.

While some counts continued overnight, many stopped and will resume at 10:00 local time on Monday.

Sinn Féin ran 42 candidates across the 39 multi-seat constituencies, about half that of both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

It will have a knock-on effect on the number of seats it can secure in the 160-seat Dáil (Irish parliament) where 80 seats are needed for a majority.

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From left: Micheál Martin (Fianna Fáil), Leo Varadkar (Fine Gael) and Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Féin)

Following the last election in 2016 Sinn Féin had 23 seats in the Dáil (Irish parliament).

There are 160 seats up for election this time around, and Sinn Féin is set to dramatically increase how many it holds after it won the most first preference votes.

Ms McDonald said this election was about “change”.

She topped the poll in her four-seat Dublin Central constituency.

“The frustration people have felt for a long time with the two-party system, whereby Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil handed the baton of power between each other – that’s now over,” she said.

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Fine Gael has been in government since 2011, firstly with the Labour Party and then with independents and with a confidence and supply deal with Fianna Fáil.

It looks set to lose seats for the second election in a row, but that does not necessarily rule it out of forming another government.

Its share of first preference votes dropped from 25.5% at the last election to 20.9%.

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Media caption‘Excluding Sinn Féin would be wrong’

The taoiseach said he was “not really” disappointed that he did not top the poll in his own constituency. He did get an increase in his votes compared to the last election.

He added it was now clear there was now a “three-party system”.

Earlier on Sunday Micheál Martin said reports suggested his party “would be the largest” but that it was early days.

He said the most important thing when forming a government was “compatibility in the programme for government” and that formation of a government was going to be very difficult.

Mr Martin added he was a “democrat” and respected the will of the people.

What about the smaller parties?

The Green Party is also set to increase the number of seats it holds.

Green leader Eamon Ryan, who was elected on the first count for Dublin Bay South, said his party would play its part in talks to form a government.

The Green Party secured 7.1% of first preference votes, followed by Labour (4.4%), Social Democrats (2.9%), Solidarity-People Before Profit (2.6%).

Aontú (1.9%) independents (12.2%) and others (1.3%) accounted for the rest.

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