First count declarations are currrently coming in from Friday’s 26-County General Election.
Sinn Fein is competing with a greatly diminished Fianna Fail to be the biggest party in opposition to a likely Fine Gael/Labour Party coalition government.
All of the Green Party TDs are expected to lose their seats in a catastrophic and historic collapse for the outgoing coalition parties.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has said a Fine Gael-Labour coalition would not represent a change in direction for the government, and that “the larger the Sinn Fein team (in the Dail), the better”.
He said: “If the polls are accurate, there isn’t going to be a real change of direction, or policy, so the larger the Sinn Fein team, the better, to try to correct that.”
After resigning his West Belfast seat at Westminster and despite enduring a hostile media during the three-week campaign, Mr Adams should top the poll in the Louth constituency.
Mr Adams was joined this afternoon at the count count centre in Louth by the North’s Deputy First Minister.
He said: “We set ourselves the target of, if possible, doubling our representation in the Dail and of setting down a very firm foundation in constituencies throughout the state.
“I think we are on course to do that. “But we will have to see. All the votes haven’t been counted yet.”
He congratulated Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny on the prospect of becoming Taoiseach.
“If Enda becomes Taoiseach, I wish him well,” said Mr Adams.
“We will support him when he is doing things that we think are good and progressive, and we will oppose him tooth and nail when he is doing things that are not in the common good.”
In 2007 Sinn Fein feared losing its Louth seat, before the party’s Arthur Morgan seized the last Dail position in the constituency. However, full tallies have shown Mr Adams is ahead of the official results showed he had won 22% of support, 2% clear of his nearest rival, Fine Gael’s Fergus O’Dowd.
Mr Adams can expect to be joined in the Dail by a team of somewhere between ten and fifteen Sinn Fein TDs, doubling or tripling its representation in what Mr McGuiness described as a breakthrough for the party.
On the basis of tallies, eight seats are now seen as certain or highly probable for Sinn Fein:
Adams - Louth
O Caolain - Cavan-Monaghan
Doherty - Donegal SW
Crowe - Dublin SW
Ferris - Kerry N
O Snodaigh - Dublin SC
Mac Lochlainn - Donegal NE
Ellis - Dublin NW
The following 11 seats are also considered to be in the mix for the party:
O Broin - Dublin MW
O’Toole - Dublin NE
Brady - Wicklow
Cullinan - Waterford
Colreavy - Sligo-Leitrim N
McLellan - Cork E
Reilly - Cavan-Monaghan
McDonald - Dublin C
Stanley - Laois-Offaly
Toibin - Meath W
O’Brien - Cork NC
The transfer of second and lower preferences in successive counts will be key to determining the final seats in a number of constituencies.
Elsewhere, prominent independent candidates such as cannibas campaigner Luke ‘Ming the Merciless’ Flanagan in Roscommon and left-wing developer Mick Wallace in Wexford are expected to join a handful of independents in the new Dail.
First counts have already been announced in Dublin South-West, Dublin West, and Dublin Mid-West. These constituencies have seen an average swing against Fianna Fail of 23.5% and in favour of Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein of 13.3%, 16.6% and 3.1% respectively.
Announcements of count results are now coming in. Joan Burton of the Labour Party was the first to be declared elected, in Dublin West. Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party has also secured election there, and he is expected to be joined by a handful of United Left Alliance colleagues in the new Dail.
Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar has also been declared elected in Dublin West, while Pat Rabitte of the Labour Party was elected on the first count in Dublin South-West.
Further results as they come in.