Fianna Fail and the Greens suffered a General Rejection as Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein were the big winners in the 2011 General Election.
The stage is now set for a Fine Gael-Labour coalition with Sinn Fein even in line to become the biggest opposition party after the decimation of the Fianna Fail vote.
While Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny celebrated winning four of the five seats available in his Mayo constituency, his Fianna Fail counterpart Micheal Martin was left to pick up the pieces after nationwide annihilation and at best just over 20 eventual seats, down from 77.
Tanaiste Mary Coughlan and Mary Hanafin were fighting for their political lives on Saturday evening as counting continued with the likes of Mary O’Rourke, John Curran, Barry Andrews,
Sean Haughey and Conor Lenihan already consigned to the Dail scrapheap.
Things were worse for the Greens with Trevor Sergant their only remaining hope for a seat at seven o’clock Irish time.
“This is a phenomenal result and day for Fine Gael,” said Taoiseach elect Enda Kenny.
“The people have spoken and the people have given us a mandate which we will go through with now. Their trust will not be misplaced.
“My ministers and our TDs will hit the ground running when we go into the Dail on March 9th. We will hit the ground running with our five point plan and start implementing it immediately.
“We have promised to fix the things that have gone wrong with this country and we will. The pledges we have given, we will follow through with.”
The bargaining has already begun in the background as Fine Gael and Labour jostle for position within the new and expected Coalition.
Front bench spokesman Leo Varadkar was the first FG candidate elected in Dublin and he said:
“One thing that is absolutely certain is that Fine Gael will be the largest party in the Dáil and any coalition will have to reflect that. A coalition with Labour is now likely.”
Richard Bruton added: “Fine Gael and Labour formed a joint platform in 2007 so you expect it should be possible even in difficult times to negotiate a deal.”
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore will probably land the role of Tanaiste in the expected Coalition with
Labour’s national organizer Pat Magnier claiming the party will be in position to command six cabinet posts.
“We expect to be in government, that is the most likely outcome on what we have seen in the counts so far,” declared leader Gilmore after Labour’s most successful election ever.
“This is an historic day for us, the first time in the history of the country that we will finish a General Election as the second biggest party in the Dail and that is something I believe we will build on now and in the future.”
Meanwhile Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams was elected on the first count in Louth, along with Fine Gael’s Fergus O’Dowd, and declared it to be a great day for his party.
“This is the people’s day and the people have voted for change and for Sinn Fein,” said Adams.
Several high profile Irish political families suffered big time in the wake of the Fianna Fail collapse when the country went to the polls on Friday as both the Haugheys and the Lenihans felt the brute force of the electorate.
The Haughey dynasty was as popular as Fianna Fail in the General Election as Sean Haughey lost his seat and the family heirloom in Dublin North Central.
Grandson of Sean Lemass and son of Charlie Haughey, Sean admitted his loss was not a surprise.
“The poor results for the party here in Dublin and across the country are not unexpected given the mistakes of the past few years,” said Haughey.
“I think core FF voters are disappointed with the way things turned out over the last four years, but it is time for renewal and a reinvigoration of the party and I’m sure that will happen in due course.
“The government had taken the right decisions since the emergence of the banking crisis, although it may not have communicated that effectively.
“The damage had really been done much earlier on, and FF should look back as far at ten years to see how it had come to this day.
“Mistakes were made. You learn and you move on and you try and gain the trust of the people again with new policies and new vision.
“However, Fianna Fáil will dust itself down and, in the words of my father we will fight, fight and fight back.”
The Lenihan family were also heavy losers despite Brian’s victory without reaching the quota for the fourth and final seat in Dublin West.
His brother Conor was well beaten in his bid to retain his Dail membership in Dublin South West while their aunt Mary O’Rourke polled less than 3,000 first preferences in Longford-Westmeath and admitted she wouldn’t be elected.
“Unfortunately we are going to lose both seats here in Dublin South West,” Conor Lenihan told RTÉ television.
“It’s not entirely a dishonorable place to be. Clearly the tide is out for Fianna Fáil in Dublin and naturally 15% is not a party that’s going places.
“There has been an avalanche of negative opinion against the party and colleagues who are defeated should not take it personally. It is not a reflection on any individual.
“I am just sorry that my colleagues didn’t move more quickly to change leader, as I had advised months before it happened.”