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.”
Ireland is now a state for the Independents – after Shane Ross led the way home with the highest poll of the count to date as he romped to the Dail
Ross will be joined in Leinster House by former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry from Tipperary North, developer Mick Wallace in Wexford and Seamus Healy in Tipperary South.
All four topped the polls in their constituencies with Ross the stand-out candidate after he attracted an incredible
Ross hailed a seismic shift in Irish politics and told RTÉ: “The voters here in my constituency and with their support for independents all across the country are saying we want change and we want radical change.
“This isn’t just about people who didn’t want to vote for Fianna Fáil but instead suggests that tribal politics in Ireland is under siege and, thank God, maybe it will be in the months and years to come.
“This is an extraordinary day in Irish politics and the number of votes for me is daunting, it shows an amazing and serous need for change in Ireland.”
A former Fine Gael candidate in Wicklow, Ross was adamant that he has no interest in re-joining the party and will only support them in government as an independent if they support his ‘radical’ plans.
Lowry took 14,104 first preferences in his Tipperary stronghold while in the South of the same county, Healy walked into the Dail on the third count with a total 11,265, 924 votes over the quota.
Soccer nut Mick Wallace insisted he will fly the flag for All-Ireland and not just for Wexford when he takes his seat on March 9th.
“I do not want to be part of any attempt by Fine Gael to form a government with independent candidates,” Wallace told reporters.
“I’ve been involved in the community of Wexford for 20 years and I have been talking about this for years so it was time and I went out there and put myself up for election.
“I didn’t make any promises on the doorstep and said he wouldn’t fix potholes or help people dodge hospital or housing queues. But I said if I got in then I’d represent the people at a national and local level.”
Labour’s deputy leader Joan Burton had the honor of becoming the first member of the new Dail when she topped the poll in Dublin West – where outgoing Finance Minister Brian Lenihan just about held onto his seat.
Burton, finance spokesperson for Labour, was elected on the first count after amassing a massive 9,627 votes.
She was subsequently joined in the Dail by Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar and socialist candidate Joe Higgins with Lenihan left to sweat it out for a probable fourth seat.
“Labour has had a very good day, my colleagues have done very well and I am looking forward to having a lot of new colleagues in the Dail,” said Bruton.
Elected on the third count, Higgins warned the incoming Fine Gael-Labour coalition that they face the same problems that brought Fianna Fail down in this election.
“The critical thing is how can we build a new movement of the left and the socialist alternative to represent working class people and the youth,” said Higgins, ready to form a new left wing alliance in Kildare Street.
“We will begin to make a new party to fill that vacuum.”
The Green Party has been decimated in the 2011 General Election – with the junior coalition partners in the last government unlikely to have any seats in the new Dail.
Outgoing TDs Paul Gogarty and Ciaran Cuffe had already conceded defeat before the six o’clock news on RTE television.
Leader John Gormley and junior minister Eamon Ryan were hanging on to outside hopes of retaining their seats in Dublin where only Trevor Sargent had any chance of returning to Leinster House.
“John and I have little chance of holding our seats,” admitted Ryan while party colleague Mary White all but gave up on her seat in Carlow-Kilkenny.
Former Minister Cuffe admitted that: “The Faustian pact with Fianna Fáil has come back to haunt the party. However, I still believe the party performed well in government and will recover its standing in time.”
One of the youngest candidates in the 2011 Election has failed to make his mark on the ballot paper – after Dylan Haskins polled 1383 first preferences, less than half the votes of his number of friends on his campaign Facebook page in Dublin South East.
Libyan General Election candidate Hussein Hamed won’t be took bothered by his poor showing in Dublin South – he’s busy mourning the death of his step brother in the conflict back home so the fact he took just 273 votes.
Bookmaker Paddy Power decided enough was enough on Saturday afternoon and started to pay out bets on a Fine Gael-Labour coalition after less than 15 seats in the new Dail had been filled.