Coalition suffers heavy losses
The Dublin coalition government has suffered a major drop in support in local and European elections, according to early tallies as well as an exit poll released today.
Labour, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin have all increased support and are likely to make significant gains on city and county councils. The Greens are set to be decimated at local council level. Fianna Fail have plunged to new depths and are set to lose dozens of local council seats.
In the European elections, an exit poll shows Fianna Fail’s national share of the vote at 23% - a fall of 6.5% on five years ago. The bad news for the Greens continues - the party looks likely to get just 2%.
The poll also shows Fine Gael two points ahead of its 2004 result, with 30%, while Labour gains 5.5 points to 16%. Sinn Féin is on 12% -- a predicted one percent gain -- while Independents get 10%.
Speaking after the exit poll was released, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said: “This is not nice and it’s not nice for our people. (But) We are in this for the five years and we will continue.”
Ciaran Cuffe of the Green Party said that his party’s performance raised the question of whether it should continue in government.
He said their reception on the doorsteps, as a party of government with Fianna Fail, was “a new political reality” for members.
The two by-elections in Dublin have been a disaster for two traditional Fianna Fail political dynasties.
Tallies indicate Maurice Ahern, brother of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at only 12% in Dublin Central, while Shay Brennan, brother of the late Minister Seamus Brennan, is on only 14% in Dublin South.
Dublin South has seen a landslide victory for former television journalist George Lee, the Fine Gael candidate in Dublin South. Lee is likely to be elected on the first count with about 54% of first preferences.
The contest is tighter in Dublin Central, where left-wing indepedent Maureen O’Sullivan, the candidate of the late Tony Gregory’s campaign, is polling about 27% and is expected to secure a narrow victory over Fine Gael’s Paschal O’Donoghue, on 23%. The contest is set to de decided by the second preferences of those who voted for Labour’s Ivana Bacik (18%) and Sinn Féin’s Christy Burke (13%).
Considerable uncertainty still exists over the outcome of the European Parliament elections. In Dublin, as expected, the last seat is a dogfight between Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin, Socialist Joe Higgins and Fianna Fail’s Eoin Ryan neck and neck, with each at about 12-14%. All will hinge on the direction of second preferences.
In the Northwest constituency, Libertas leader Declan Ganley’s strong performance in Galway could be enough to put over the top in a fight for the last of the three Euro seats against Fianna Fail’s Pat the Cope Gallagher.
Independent Marian Harkin is understood to have topped the poll, with Fine Gael’s Jim Higgins also expected to gain a seat.
Tallies remain patchy in other areas.
Sinn Féin’s Toireasa Ferris polling better than expected in the South constituency, but is unlikely to take a seat.
Fianna Fail’s Brian Crowley leads in the South, according to tallies, with Fine Gael’s Sean Kelly in second place. Labour’s Senator Alan Kelly, Independent Kathy Sinnott and Fianna Fail’s Colm Burke are fighting for the third seat.
In the local elections, Sinn Féin could take three seats in Cork city council, and has also performed strongly in Waterford.
In the East European constituency, Labour’s Nessa Childers is trailing Fine Gael’s Mairead McGuinness, tallies show. Fianna Fail’s Liam Aylward and John Paul Phelan of Fine Gael are vying for third place.
* Counting of votes in the local elections continues today and this evening. In the European election, counting in both parts of Ireland gets underway tomorrow.
Results will continue to be published here as they become available.