Counting is underway for Ireland’s General Election, which was held on Saturday. As results are still rolling in, Ireland’s future Government is not yet clear, but the final tally is expected to be announced in due course.
Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein have been in the running to win over voters in this election.
However, the exit poll on Saturday forecast a shocking three-way split between the three major parties.
Fine Gael, led by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, was forecast to secure 22.4 percent of first preference votes.
Sinn Fein followed in the exit poll with 22.3 percent of first round votes, with Fianna Fail predicted to win 22.2 percent.
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But as results have been announced, it has become clear Sinn Fein have performed better than expected in this election.
However it may be unlikely that Sinn Fein emerges from this election as the party with the most seats, as the party ran candidates in less seats than its two main rivals.
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said she was exploring the possibility of forming a government without Fine Gael or Fianna Fail.
Ms McDonald said: “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.
Ireland election results: Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald
“We now have a very substantial mandate.”
Prior to the election, both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail said they would not enter into a coalition with Sinn Fein.
But Ms McDonald has labelled the decision as “undemocratic”.
She said: “The extraordinary thing is that it seems that the political establishment – and by that I mean Fianna Fail and Fine Gael – are in a state of denial.
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“They are still not listening to what the people have said.
“I want us to have a government for the people. I want us to have ideally a government with no Fianna Fail or Fine Gael in it.
“I have started the contact with other parties to explore over the next days whether that is a possibility.
“I also have to say this, that in any event I do not accept the exclusion – or talk of excluding our party – a party that represents almost a quarter of the electorate.”
Ireland election results: Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin
As results started to be announced, Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin said: “There is significant incompatibility in terms of the policy platforms of ourselves and Sinn Féin.
“Our policies and principals have not changed overnight.”
Full results of this election are not expected to be declared for a while.
However some shocking outcomes from this election have already been announced.
The first seat declared after 4pm was for Donnchadh O Laoghaire, polling higher than Michael Martin, Fianna Fail leader.
Fine Gael Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was outpolled by a Sinn Fein candidate in his Dublin West constituency, and it’s possible he will not take his seat in the first round.
Until all votes are declared, which could take at least two days to be counted, Mr Varadkar is still Taoiseach.
There are 39 constituencies in Ireland, represented by either three, four or five seats in Government.