Irish Republican News · May 26, 2007
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Election counts conclude
Election counts conclude

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is considering a number of coalition options as the 26-COunty general election counts are completing.

His ruling Fianna Fail party have captured 78 seats - just five short of an overall majority.

Following the dramatic collapse of the Progressive Democrats’ vote, whose leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McDowell quit politics after losing his seat, speculation is mounting over Ahern’s choice of new coalition partners.

In the frame at the moment are Trevor Sargent’s Green Party and the Labour Party, led by Pat Rabbitte.

Trevor Sargent’s party is expected to return with six seats, while Labour returned with 20 seats.

It would be a controversial about-turn for Mr Rabbitte who previously ruled out a coalition with Fianna Fail and offered an alternative government during the election with Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael.

An agreement between the Green Party and Fianna Fail is seen as more likely, although there are major policy and cultural differences between the two.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin held onto its Dublin South Central seat as Aengus O Snodaigh kept Labour’s Eric Byrne at bay by just 69 seats. Meanwhile, in Donegal North-East, Padraig Mac Lochlainn fell short of making a gain for Sinn Féin in what was a difficult day for the party overall.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said the party would “regroup” following the loss of Sean Crowe’s seat in Dublin South-West and the failure to make hoped-for gains elsewhere in Dublin, in Donegal and the Southeast.

But there would be no fundamental reassessment of Sinn Féin’s position, and said the party’s message is “still relevant”.

“I think the electorate went for the Taoiseach they wanted to see in power and that was Bertie Ahern and that’s what the entire election became based on, particularly in the last week.”

Polls indicate undecided voters plumped largely for Ahern following a television debate which pitted the Taoiseach against Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny. A secondary debate, featuring the other political leaders, was blamed in part for creating a “two-tier” election which saw the smaller parties suffer setbacks.

Congratulating Fianna Fail, Mr Adams said: “Fair play to them, they did very well.”

Asked what the result means for their organisation in the 26 Counties, the Sinn Féin leader said: “Progress in this jurisdiction so far has been incremental. There was an expectation that we would do better, so people may be disappointed, but they’ll dust themselves down and we’ll continue to build incrementally.”

He added, however, that their policies were still relevant. “We need the economy to serve the people. There’s no point in us all being wealthy if we can’t get a hospital bed, if we can’t get our kids into school, get creche facilities. So that message is still there.

“And then in terms of Irish unity, it is still a necessary objective for Irish political life and one that Sinn Féin will continue to serve.”

Congratulating Fianna Fail, he said: “Fair play to them, they did very well.”

COALITION NEGOTIATIONS

Speaking on Irish radio today, Mr Ahern said he would take account of how the people had voted in order to form a stable government.

“We have to have a programme for government. It’s not just a question of doing an arrangement for numbers on the day,” he said.

He said that stable government was “important for the image of the country both internally and externally”.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has said he will look at the final results in the general election before he decides on his options for the possible formation of a government.

Asked today whether he still held out the prospect of becoming Taoiseach, Mr Kenny said: “I think there’s an onus and responsibility on every party leader to see what the final results are and look at all of the options and that’s what I intend to do.”

Current figures indicate that Fine Gael would require the support of all the left-wing parties as well as independents in order to form a government.

Howeever, like Fianna Fail, Mr Kenny ruled out any possible negotiations with Sinn Féin.

“I have been very clear and very consistent about that, since long before this election campaign,” he said.

RESULT

With just three constituencies - Dublin North, Tippery South and Laois-Offaly - yet to complete their count, the following is the final result based on share of first preferences, as well as the expected final outcome:

Fianna Fail: 41.6%, 78 seats (-3)
Fine Gael: 27.3%, 51 seats (+20)
Labour: 10.1%, 20 seats (-1)
Sinn Féin: 6.9%, 4 seats (-1)
Green Party: 4.7%, 6 seats (+0)
Progressive Democrats: 2.7%, 2 seats (-6)
Others: 6.6%, 5 seats (-9)

© 2007 Irish Republican News