A top Fianna Fail aide has admitted that the ‘electorate has rioted at the ballot box’ as the outgoing government faces a General Election wipe-out - with Tanaiste Mary Coughlan facing an embarrassing extinction in her native Donegal.
Coughlan’s plight, as she fights for the final seat in Donegal South West, is just typical of Fianna Fail’s annihilation as the boxes open and the tallies mount across the country.
Even outgoing Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan is battling to hang into the final seat in Dublin West as Fianna Fail faces its worst election result ever with just 8% of the vote in the capital.
Incredibly, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has close to four times the quota as he prepares to top the poll in Mayo and lead the country as the new Taoiseach.
Other headlines include a guaranteed seat for Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in Louth, a top of the poll debut for developer Mick Wallace and his pink shirt in Wexford, a triumph for Shane Ross in Dublin South, a return for Joe Higgins in Dublin West and a surprise seat for Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan in Roscommon-South Leitrim.
Coughlan isn’t the only potential big name Fianna Fail casualty with Minister Mary Hanafin, Barry Andrews and Conor Lenihan also struggling in Dublin.
“The electorate has rioted at the ballot box,” said one top Fianna Fail official as counts carried on across the 43 constituencies to elect 165 members of the 31st Dail.
Fianna Fail General Secretary Sean Dorgan also confirmed the worst possible outcome for the outgoing Celtic Tiger government when he added: “Today will be the toughest day we have ever had.
“This is a punishment election for Fianna Fail as far as the electorate is concerned and the voters have sent a strong message to our party.
“That message is understood but despite any potential for seat losses today, the Fianna Fail Party may be down but not out.”
Commenting on individual struggles, Dorgan added: “Brian Lenihan should hold onto his seat in Dublin but my information is that Mary Coughlan’s bid to be re-elected in Donegal will go down to the wire.”
Fine Gael will be the big winners going into the new Dail with Kenny currently on track to lead four TDs for the party from his Mayo constituency alone, an unprecedented success.
The party’s General Secretary Tom Curran said: “This is an historic day for our party, as things stand at the various count centres we could end up with over 36% of the vote and our highest tally ever.”
Deputy Director of Elections for Fine Gael, Frank Flannery added: “Results can vary from constituency to constituency and it will be interesting to see how the transfers work out and affect the overall result.
“But there is no doubt now that we will enjoy an historic victory and that Fianna Fail will have a dramatically horrific election.”
Blueshirt hopes for a single-party government with the support of independents now look forlorn as the Labour party also prepares to celebrate.
Eamon Gilmore is certain to be named Tanaiste after Labour’s best election results ever with an estimated 20.5 per cent of the overall vote compared to Fine Gael’s 36.1 per cent and Fianna Fail’s abysmal 15.1.
Labour spokesman David Leech said: “This is a great day for the Labour Party in Ireland.
“Fine Gael had a very strong two weeks at the beginning of this election campaign but we felt the tide was shifting in our favor during the finals days and the results prove it.”
Journalist, Senator and Independent candidate Shane Ross is set to add his own unique take on politics to the 31st Dail.
The outspoken financial expert looks certain to top the poll on his General Election debut in the five seater Dublin South constituency where tallies show him on 23 per cent of the first preference vote.
Ross, a columnist and business editor with the Sunday Independent newspaper, is just one of many independents who will take their seat in Dail Eireann on March 9th.
“The message from the electorate with their support of independent candidates is very clear right across the country,” Ross told RTE News.
“The people have put down a marker and told us that they want new politics and new politicians. They have told us that they don’t want tribal politics in Ireland anymore and we have to listen to that.
“It is going to be fascinating to get into this Dail with all these new Independents and I look forward to some very strong opinions and leadership in a new look Dail Eireann.”
Ross’s remarkable success in Dublin South has been mirrored by the developer, football club owner and activist Mick Wallace in Wexford.
The flamboyant builder, as famous for his long blond locks as he is for protest banners on his building sites against the American presence in Iraq, has a real chance of topping the poll in the five seat South-East constituency.