Europe

Irish elections: Parties wait to see if poll predictions play out

Counting got under way at 09:00 BST on Saturday Image copyright PA
Image caption Counting got under way at 09:00 BST on Saturday

Even as the ballot boxes were being opened in the Irish local government elections, it was clear the two Irish government coalition parties - Fine Gael and Labour - were going to do as badly as the opinion polls had predicted.

It will be a good weekend for Sinn Féin, although not quite as good as some polls had suggested.

But the real winners are the Independents. Already there is talk of "Independents' Day".

An RTÉ exit poll predicts the Labour vote appears to have slumped from 19% in the last general election to 7%, while Fine Gael's 36% support in 2011 has fallen to 24% in the local elections.

Sinn Féin, the exit poll suggests, have risen from 10% in 2011 to 16% in this year's local elections.

Some polls had suggested the party could get closer to 20%, but there is a history of polls putting the party's vote slightly higher than it turns out on election day.

A former Fianna Fáil TD, Chris Andrews, is standing for Sinn Féin in the well-to-do Dublin 4 area and he is, according to tallies, doing very well and should be elected.

Glory days

Fianna Fáil, so long the party of government until the economic crash, is expected to have a better day than some predicted.

The exit poll predicts it will get 22%, that's up 5% on its disastrous general election. But it's still a long way away from the glory days.

As for the Independents, their 27% share of the vote reflects the electorate's unhappiness with years of tax rises and public spending cutbacks in what some call "The Age of Austerity".

It is early days, but questions are bound to be asked about the future leadership of Eamon Gilmore.

It is possible there will be a challenge to the Labour leader and it is quite likely he will move from foreign affairs to a domestic ministry in the inevitable cabinet reshuffle.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Opinion polls for different companies during the campaign suggested people had already made up their minds about the Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams

The Labour Minister for Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin, has said his party is suffering for taking tough, but necessary decisions, and that it would have made no difference who was leader.

Opinion polls

There will be speculation as to whether Sinn Féin could have done even better if Gerry Adams had not been arrested and questioned for several days about his alleged, but denied IRA membership and involvement in the murder in the widowed mother of 10, Jean McConville.

Opinion polls for different companies during the campaign suggested people had already made up their minds about the Sinn Féin leader: less than 10% believe him when he says he was never in the IRA and less than 25% believe that he had no involvement in Jean McConville's murder.

In fairness it must be pointed out there were large percentages of people who didn't know in answer to both questions.

Two by-elections - Longford-Westmeath and Dublin West - are also being counted.

And while it is still early days, Fine Gael are expected to hold on to the midlands' seat while the hard-left Socialist Party is believed most likely to win in the capital.

Fine Gael's candidate was Senator Eamon Coughlan, a former 1,500 metre world athletics champion.

He finished 4th in two Olympics games, missing out on a medal.

Although he is said to be doing well, better than some had predicted, he will not win a seat and could well finish …….4th.

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