An extraordinary election result is unfolding in the 26 Counties as tallies show that Sinn Fein is now the largest party in Dublin by some distance, and the three main establishment parties only winning the support of half of the electorate across the state.
Independents have polled exceptionally strongly, particularly in the west, while Labour has seen its support decimated to just 6%.
There were also shock indications in the Dublin West by election, with Paul Donnelly of Sinn Fein and Ruth Coppinger of the Socialist Party in an extremely tight race at around 20% of the vote, with the government parties winning less than 30% of the vote between them.
Most significantly, after two days of counting in both parts of Ireland, Sinn Fein is set to be the largest party on city councils in Dublin, Cork, Belfast and Derry, doubling or trebling its numbers of councillors across the 26 Counties.
The European votes will not be counted until tomorrow, but an RTE exit poll in Dublin shows Sinn Fein’s Lynn Boylan securing 24% of the votes there, followed by Eamon Ryan of the Greens and Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes, both on 14%.
In the South polls show Brian Crowley of Fianna Fail is on 26% with Liadh Ni Riada in second on 17% , while in Midlands-North-West, the maverick independent Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan leads the field at 20%, with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail likely to take a seat each there. Sinn Fein’s Matt Carthy on 13% is in a battle with independent Marian Harkin on 11% for the final seat.
Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has said the arrest of Gerry Adams in the course of the election campaign did not have “the disruptive effect some people hoped it might”.
The scale of the election disaster for Labour was most evident in Cork City, where they appeared likely to lose all seven of their seats to Sinn Fein. There was a similar story in Dublin, with Sinn Fein set to become the largest party in the capital’s local councils.
Labour’s Minister for Communications was defiant, however. Pat Rabbitte said the election result provided an opportunity to rebuild and renew the programme for government agreed with Fine Gael three years ago.
He had a sense of relief that a similar vote hadn’t been seen in the 2011 general election, which brought the coalition into power.
“If the people had voted like this in 2011, where would the country be now? A combination of independents and Sinn Fein?” Mr Rabbitte asked.
Counting in local elections is set to continue in both parts of Ireland throughout Saturday.
In the North, the official turnout figure reached a lowly 52%. Overall, the unionist vote appears to have improved, with a small swing from the nationalist to unionist parties.
Unionist extremists were also starting to win seats in numbers. TUV leader Jim Allister described his party’s results in Bannside, where it won two seats, as “phenomenal”, and he also hailed the party’s breakthrough to win a first seat on Belfast council.
Across the north, Sinn Fein’s share has held strong, while the SDLP has struggled and is on course for less than 70 seats, ten less than it had predicted.
Sinn Fein is now the largest on Derry council, as it is in Belfast, where it consolidated its position with gains in Oldpark and Court. However, it lost a seat in the Castle ward to Alliance.
Alliance benefited from the collapse of moderate unionist NI21 and successfully retained the balance of power between nationalists and unionists on Belfast council.
The Mid Ulster count was completed on Friday night with Sinn Fein falling just short of overall control, but the party took 18 of the 40 seats available in the new super council, on over 40% of the vote.
Independent republicans were also making further progress with Dee Fennell within reach of a seat in Oldpark. He was competing against the SDLP following the elimination of the RNU’s Sammy Cusick. Transfers from an eliminated Sinn Fein candidate are set to decide the winner of the last seat there.
The following is the result of the RTE exit poll for the European Elections (for the 26 Counties only).
Overall - Ind/Others 27%, FG 22%, FF 22%, SF 17%, Lab 6%, Green 6%
Midlands North West constituency - Flanagan (Ind) 20%, McGuinness (FG) 16%, Carthy (SF) 13%, Gallagher (FF) 11%, Harkin (Ind) 11%, Byrne (FF) 10%, J Higgins (FG) 7%, L Higgins (Lab) 4%, Mullan (Ind) 4%
South constituency - Crowley (FF) 26%, Ni Riada (SF) 17%, Kelly (FG) 12%, Clune (FG) 9%, Harris (FG) 7%, Hartley (FF) 5%, O’Flynn (Ind) 5%, O’Sullivan (GP) 5%, Prendergast (Lab) 5%, Cahill (Ind) 3%
Dublin constituency - Boylan (SF) 24%, Hayes (FG) 14%, Ryan (GP) 14%, Fitzpatrick (FF) 12%, Childers (Ind) 11%, Costello (Lab) 8%, Murphy (Soc) 7%, Smith (PBPA) 6%.