First results from tallies in the 26 County election point to a historic day for Sinn Féin and Irish politics generally. Sinn Féin look set to top every poll in Dublin and could see the vast majority of their candidates win election across the state.
Tallies appear to have outstripped even last night’s seismic exit poll, which showed Sinn Féin at 22%. In comparison, Fine Gael look set to lose seats, while independents and socialists have also not polled well.
The distribution of the surplus votes from Sinn Féin candidates will likely be the key factor in deciding the make-up of the next Dáil.
Even in conservative rural areas, where Sinn Féin has traditionally polled in single digits behind the two main parties, there are reports of very large numbers of votes coming for Sinn Féin. The transformation is reflected in a box in Clonfert, near Ballinasloe, where it secured an unbelievable 32 per cent of the vote.
As an example of the transformation, Sinn Féin is in with a strong chance of winning seats in every constituency in the county of Galway, where previously they had none. Mairead Farrell looking set to top the poll in Galway West, while the party is also on 15% in Galway East and 17% in Roscommon-Galway, both traditional heartlands for Fianna Fail/Fine Gael.
Sinn Féin is looking good for two seats everywhere it has fielded two -- in Dublin Mid West, Cavan-Monaghan, Donegal and Louth. Nowhere is a Sinn Féin candidate out of the running for a seat, and while it is still early days, the party will certainly rue not running more candidates, which caps its potential success at a maximum 42 out of 159 available seats.
The exit poll showed that health and housing were the big factors for voters, with 32% pointing to health and 26% for housing. For Sinn Féin voters, however, housing was the biggest issue, an indication of its younger demographic. Pension age was third for all voters, another issue which reaped votes for Sinn Féin across the state.
The exit poll showed SF is now the most popular party for all voters under 65. But on the basis of early tallies, that could well change to be the most popular party in the 26 Counties, without condition.