The counting of votes in the local and European Parliament elections has confirmed the Green Party as the big winners, having recorded their best ever election results, and Sinn Féin as the big losers of the weekend.
Fianna Fáil will strengthen its position as the largest party of local government with an especially strong performance in Dublin, while Fine Gael will only see marginal gains, though the party will have a much better result in the European elections.
Sinn Féin is set to lose a third of its local authority seats as the party’s support collapsed in the council and European elections. The party lost seats on councils all over the country – and was wiped out on some local authorities – in a major reversal of fortunes from the last such elections five years ago.
Party sources were braced to lose as many as 50 seats, from a total of 159 in 2014, with some fearing that its total seat haul could dip below 100.
Counts continue on Monday at centres around the country, including at European Parliament count centres for the South and Midlands North West constituencies which have yet to complete first counts.
The Dublin constituency announced a first count last might which showed Green candidate Ciarán Cuffe topping the poll with 63,849 first preferences. Mr Cuffe is likely to be followed to the European Parliament by Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald (59,067 first preferences) while Sinn Féin’s Lynn Boylan (39,387) will struggle to hold her seat.
Barry Andrews polled 51,420 in the first count, and Clare Daly 42,305, in the four-seat constituency for which the quota is 72,790.
The surge in support for the Green Party continued all weekend, returning local authority seats all across Dublin and elsewhere, though first counts showed that the party’s share of the vote would not be as spectacular as exit polls had predicted.
While the party is certain to take the Dublin MEP seat, the Greens’ candidate in the South constituency Grace O’Sullivan and the Midlands North West candidate Saoirse McHugh will have to wait until later counts on Monday to learn whether they will join Mr Cuffe in the new European Parliament.
Party leader Eamon Ryan said newly elected Green Party councillors will seek to form alliances with all other parties on local authorities in the coming weeks to agree action on climate change.
Mr Ryan said he anticipates a “rainbow coalition with a range of different parties” in local government.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the public had sent a “clear message” by electing more Green Party candidates that they want the Government to do “more on climate action”.
Mr Varadkar admitted Fine Gael had under-performed against its initial expectations in the local elections. He also downplayed the prospect of a Cabinet reshuffle on the back of the European and local elections, and said that he had no intention of calling a snap general election, though he indicated it could happen later this year.
Fianna Fáil, by contrast, is likely to be the biggest party on Dublin City Council for the first time in 20 years, after the party rebuilt in some of its old working-class heartlands as Sinn Féin imploded.
The Sinn Féin vote halved in Dublin and suffered huge falls in Cork, Limerick and Galway, as well as elsewhere in the county. Party leader Mary Lou McDonald accepted responsibility for the result, telling reporters: “The buck stops with me.”
As expected the referendum proposing to ease the constitutional restrictions on divorce was passed with a Yes vote of 82 per cent, while tallies from the counts in Cork, Waterford and Limerick, suggested that voters are likely to reject the proposal for directly-elected mayors.