Exit poll released as election count begins
Exit poll released as election count begins

Counting begins this morning in the 26-County General Election in which Fine Gael is expected to take power following a collapse in the Fianna Fail vote.

Ballot boxes will be opened at count centres across the country at 9am with the first results due from mid-afternoon on.

Voter turnout was reported to be one of the highest for many years with officials putting the figure in the region of 70%.

Taoiseach-in-waiting Enda Kenny, the Fine Gael leader, will be in his home town of Castlebar, County Mayo where his party is being tipped to take four of the five seats in the western constituency.

Kenny should get a clear indication of the strength of his support by late tonight.

An exit poll conducted by RTE state-run television shows that, nationally, Fine Gael received 36.1% of votes -- suggesting Kenny will probably need to form a coalition government in order to become Taoiseach. Fine Gael are predicted to gain about 73 seats, short of the 83 required for an overall majority.

The other figures, which have a margin of error of 3%, show Labour at 20.5%, Fianna Fail at 15.1%, Sinn Fein at 10.1%, the Green Party at 2.7% and others at 15.5%.

A considerable factor in the final result will be how concentrated the support is in the various constituencies around Ireland, and how votes are transferred among the parties.

It particular, Fianna Fail is said to have reached only 8% in Dublin, according to a report on the exit poll, suggesting the party is in considerable difficulty in the capital, and benefitting Sinn Fein and the United Left Alliance.

Predictions based on the poll have suggested Sinn Fein’s representation in the Dublin parliament could double on the back of a record performance.

Some pundits have even claimed that, with a likely Fine Gael-Labour coalition, Fianna Fail may not be the largest group on the opposition benches.

Ballot boxes are set to open shortly, and tallies will become available from around noon. First results are expected in the mid-afternoon.

Turnout in the election appeared to have surpassed that of the 2007 election, according to reports from various polling stations around the country.

There were indications that it may even top 70 per cent.

A turnout of 78 or 79 per cent was being predicted for Mayo, the constituency of Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny.

The Mayo Fianna Fail TD Dara Calleary described the turnout as “phenomenal” and said there was a potential 100 per cent turnout at one booth in the townland of Bofield near Ballina.

There was controversy in Galway after it emerged a number of people had been deleted from the electoral register. Two women who were unable to cast their votes in the Galway West constituency staged a protest at Galway City Hall.

Disgraced outgoing Taoiseach Brian Cowen said Fianna Fail “will come again” despite predictions that the party may lose three-quarters of its representation in the Dail.

“We will take the verdict of the people tomorrow and we will thank them,” he said.

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