FG on track to lead government

Sat, Feb 26, 2011, 00:00

Counting of votes has begun around the country as an exit poll indicated Fine Gael will lead the government for the first time in 14 years.

The poll, which was conducted by Millward Brown Lansdowne for RTÉ, predicted Labour’s best result in a general election to date, with Fianna Fáil putting in its worst ever performance.

According to the poll, Fine Gael is on 36.1 per cent, Labour is on 20.5 per cent, Fianna Fáil has slumped to 15.1 per cent, Sinn Féin is on 10.1 per cent, the Green Party were on 2.7 per cent and Independents and Others were on 15.5 per cent.

The poll of 3,500 voters was carried out yesterday. The margin of error was 2.5 per cent.

It indicates that while Fine Gael will be short of an overall majority, it will be the party’s best result in more than 28 years. Fine Gael's director of elections Phil Hogan has refused to accept that an overall majority is now unlikely, insisting that "everything is in play".

"We are seeing a huge shift," said former Fine Gael leader Garret FitzGerald. "The last time anything happened on this scale was more than 90 years ago."

Fine Gael had a strong showing in Leinster and Munster, with predictions of 40 and 38 per cent of first-preference votes respectively.

Labour is on 20.5 per cent nationally, but is expected to finish ahead of Fine Gael in Dublin with 31 per cent of the vote, the poll showed. Fine Gael won 27 per cent of first preference votes in Dublin, the exit poll said.

Fianna Fáil support slumped to only 15.1 per cent nationally, compared to 42 per cent in the 2007 election. The RTÉ exit poll indicated that Fianna Fáil’s support in Dublin was only 8 per cent, rising to 16 per cent in Munster, 17 per cent in the rest of Leinster and 19 per cent in Connacht and Ulster.

Sinn Féin also put in a record performance, with the poll predicting 10.1 per cent support. It had strong support in Connacht and Ulster, where it is predicted to have taken 15 per cent of first preference votes.

Green Party support was put at 2.7 per cent nationally, but up to 5 per cent in Dublin. Paul Gogarty, one of party’s six outgoing TDs, conceding the election earlier this morning after tallies from his Dublin Mid West constituency showed his support slumping.

Independents were on 15.5 per cent. There are over 200 Independents among the 566 candidates running in the 43 constituencies.

Speaking on RTÉ this morning, Trinity College Dublin politics professor Michael Marsh said the poll indicated Fine Gael will take about 72 seats in the 166-seat Dáil, while Labour may win 38. Sinn Féin could take 15 seats, while Fianna Fail may slump to 20 seats.

Counting began at 9am when the first ballot boxes were opened.