A considerably reduced Fine Gael has taken a small lead over a resurgent Fianna Fáil and is likely to remain the largest party in the Dáil.
With 10 of 158 seats left to fill, Fine Gael currently has 47 seats while Fianna Fáil has secured 43. The Government parties have suffered heavy losses while Fianna Fáil has more than doubled its share of seats.
Sinn Féin, Independents and smaller parties have also recorded gains but the Labour Party is struggling to win seven seats, the number required to gain speaking rights in the Dáil.
Currently the party is on six seats, Sinn Féin has 22, AAA- PBP has five seats, Social Democrats has three, the Green party has two seats while Independents and others have 20.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny conceded the Coalition will not have the numbers to form the next government. He said he had a responsibility to do “everything possible” to try to secure a stable government.
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said: "It's up to the Opposition to see if they can form a government. We've been rebuffed."
Some sources expressed the view that although there is no immediate threat to Enda Kenny’s leadership, he cannot lead Fine Gael into another election.
It was claimed that one “risk” is that another election may be held before Mr Kenny himself decided to stand aside.
A number of Fianna Fáil TDs have expressed reservations about a possible “grand coalition” with Fine Gael. “We are staying out of government with Fine Gael” said Dara Calleary who was returned to his Dáil seat in Mayo. He also ruled out a coalition with Sinn Féin but said the party would be open to governing with the Social Democrats.
Labour’s Brendan Ryan (Dublin Fingal), whose party is on course to win its lowest ever seat tally, told RTÉ, “My own instinct at the moment is that we will be going into Opposition.”
Counting is taking places across the State with 36 out of 40 constituencies completed.
In Louth, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams secured his seat on the sixth count, coming close behind Fianna Fail’s poll-topper Declan Breathnach.
Eamon Ryan, the Green Party leader, also secured a seat in the Dáil for the Dublin Bay South constituency.
Independent Danny Healy-Rae has taken a seat in Kerry on his first ever general election contest and will join his brother Michael in the Dáil, continuing the legacy of their father, Jackie Healy-Rae.
A number of high profile candidates have lost their seats including former minister for justice Alan Shatter (Dublin-Rathdown), Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly, Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan, Labour's Minister for Communications Alex White (Dublin South) and his party colleagues, Joe Costello (Dublin Central) and the party's chief whip Emmet Stagg (Kildare North).
Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton lost her seat in Dublin Bay South. Her party is now at risk of losing its last remaining Dáil seat, held by Billy Timmins, as the eight count gets underway in Wicklow.
With just one TD elected in Donegal, the constituency’s returning officer agreed to a Sinn Féin request for a recount of the votes of Gary Doherty of Sinn Féin and Independent Dessie Shiels.
A total recount is taking place in the Dublin South Central constituency where People Before Profit's councillor Bríd Smith was 35 votes ahead of Fianna Fáil's Catherine Ardagh. Ms Smith said that Ms Ardagh's campaign team said there were 700 spoiled votes, and two votes in a block of 50 had been incorrectly placed. They argued that if each block of votes had two incorrect, that would alter the result.
Dublin South West's recount will continue into tomorrow as the first recount has seen the gap between front runner, Independent Katherine Zappone and Fine Gael's Anne-Marie Dermody narrow from 158 votes to 124.
A full recount was ordered in Longford Westmeath and a full recount is also to take place in Dublin Bay North on Monday after a request from Senator Averil Power.
Labour Party leader Joan Burton secured Labour's first seat on Saturday evening after a tight contest in Dublin West, while Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin topped the poll in Wexford. Minster for the Environment Alan Kelly retained his seat in the final count in Tipperary on Sunday.
Labour’s seats have fallen from 33 to its current six.
Ms Burton said she was “very very disappointed” with the vote, but that Labour “has obviously had a difficulty since we went into Government”.
She added that the party has “worked as hard as possible to bring Labour Party values and principles into the heart of Irish politics”.