Enda Kenny has conceded that there is no way the Fine Gael – Labour coalition government will return to office.
“It is perfectly obvious the government of Fine Gael and Labour cannot be returned to government,” he said at the Castlebar constituency count in Mayo.
“I have a duty and responsibility as Taoiseach to do everything possible, as head of government, to see that our country is provided with a stable government and I won’t be in possession of all the options that are open until we have the final figures,” he said.
Though he has yet to confirm that Fine Gael is open to the possibility of a Fine Gael Fianna Fáil coalition, his comments to RTE Radio indicate that he may be coming around: “The people didn’t want an overall majority for anyone, they didn’t want the current government; the over-riding requirement is that the country has a government, it’s my responsibility to provide that.”
Though it has been a grim day for his party, Kenny has kept the seat for his constituency. He also confirmed that, despite his party's losses, he would not be resigning.
In some constituencies – including, notably, Gerry Adams’ in Louth – ballot counting has been adjourned until the morning.
Counting was also closed for the night in Dublin Bay South after it was confirmed that Lucinda Creighton, the leader of the newcomer political party Reuna, which launched last year, was out of the running.
Joan Burton, the leader of the Labour Party, celebrated as it was confirmed she would keep her Dail seat for Dublin West.
Micheál Martin keept his seat in Cork South-Central, and Fianna Fáil announced that he will be put forward as their nominee for Taoiseach.
Here's the party breakdown as the clock strikes midnight in Ireland.
Read Irish political journalist Deaglán de Bréadún's full analysis of the election results here: Irish electorate takes revenge on hairshirt government’s austerity program.
While the 2016 election brings lackluster results thus far for Fine Gael and Labour, the two parties that have led Ireland for the past five years, two parties have reason to celebrate as the results are announced.
Fianna Fáil lost control of the government in the 2011 election, as voters were swayed by Fine Gael’s campaign promises to lift Ireland out of the recession and learn from the mistakes of the Celtic Tiger years.
This election, however, they have made an undeniable comeback as a Fine Gael - Fianna Fáil coalition looks more and more likely.
Fianna Fáil are dominating the Dáil thus far, occupying 12 of 30 seats filled and 128 more to go.
Here is the state of play with 30 of 158 seats filled for the 32nd Dáil pic.twitter.com/HWNSwyHCoV— RTÉ News (@rtenews) February 27, 2016
Here are some of the TDs who have secured their seats:
Also celebrating are Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald and Fine Gael’s Leo Vardrakar, And Ireland's Green Party has secured its first seat in the 32nd Dáil with Catherine Martin of the Dublin Rathdown constituency.
It has also emerged that one voter who was clearly unimpressed by any of the candidates decided to create his or her own write-in candidate - UFC fighter Conor McGregor.
The ballot was, sadly, rejected.
An Irish bookmakers has announced that they are paying out of bets for a Fine Gael / Fianna Fáil government, having decided to “put punters out of their misery in what is expected to be a grueling wait.”
BoyleSports bookmakers said “at present, we are confident in our decision.”
Considering the possibility of a Fine Gael / Fianna Fáil coalition government, Mark Mortell, the Taoiseach (Prime Minster)Enda Kenny's adviser told BreakingNews.ie "We're each going to have to consider the situation and we're going to have to talk to the Labour Party too."
"What you've got here is an extraordinary situation. It is a massive fracturing of the political system,” said Mortell.
"It creates immediately a huge amount of volatility and if you look just across into Europe, and what's happened in Spain and Portugal, this does mean we're going to have a very, very interesting couple of weeks ahead of us and very, very demanding ones."
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, told the press at the RDS, that a Fine Gael / Fianna Fáil coalition government would be the “stuff of nightmares.”
She added that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil had “no divine right” to be in government.
This would be a coalition which would see the two parties attempt to bury decades of acrimony to avoid political instability.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin told RTE on Saturday “We’re committed doing our best by the country and ensuring there’s a good government.”
He added “It’s going to take time.”
Economist Eoin Fahy, from Kleinwort Benson Investors, in Dublin, told Bloomberg “At this stage, it has to be Fine Gael and Fianna Fail or else a second election. Another election is a possibility rather than a probability at this point.”
11:40am: The first five TDs have been elected to Ireland’s 32nd Dáil (Parliament)
- Shane Ross for Independent Alliance, in Dublin Rathdown
- Frances Fitzgerald for Fine Gael, in Dublin Mid-West
- Eoin O'Broin for Sinn Féin, in Dublin Mid-West
- Sean Fleming for Fianna Fail, in Laois
- Seán Barrett, automatically returned as Ceann Comhairle (speaker of the house), in Dun Laoghaire
What we know so far:
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael look set to be far closer than expected and it could spell a coalition of the old civil war rivals according to the tallies so far.
Michael Martin, leader of Fianna Fáil, was greeted applause at the Cork city election count centre in City Hall. Given his first reaction to his party's impressive electoral performance he expressed satisfaction as the tallies show the party on 41% of the vote in Cork South Central.
The Labour Party has experienced a hammering at the polls, winning just 7.1% according to RTE’s exit poll, released on Saturday morning.
Already today, two outgoing Labour Party politicians, Joanna Tuffy and Robert Dowds, have said that the party should not remain in power. Candidates including Kathleen Lynch in Cork, Emmett Stagg in Kildare North as well as Dublin candidates Eric Byrne and Alex White appear likely to lose their seats.
Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and leader of the Labour Party Joan Burton is battling to retain her seat in Dublin West.
Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar, also in Dublin West, is expected to top the poll here while Fianna Fáil's Jack Chamber has the second highest first preference votes on 16.5%.
It has been a bad day for new party Renua, with sources in the party saying they may not return a single seat, according to BreakingNews.ie.
Tallies so far show that Fianna Fáil is experiencing a massive growth in support and are predicted to take back seats lost in 2011. Charlie McConalogue is set to top the poll in Donegal, followed by Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty along with FF’s Pat “The Cope” Gallagher. It’s been a tough battle for Sinn Féin's Padraig McLochalinn who now could be in trouble.
Tipperary’s independent candidate Michael Lowry is expected to top the poll and is already being named as the nation’s highest vote getter.
Fine Gael’s James Reilly, the former Minister for Children, is in difficulty in Dublin Fingal where Independent Clare Daly and Fianna Fáil Senator Darrragh O’Brien are polling well.
Former Fianna Fáil Minister Mary Hanafin is expected to lose her battle in Dún Laoghaire, where Fine Gael's Mary Mitchell O'Connor and Maria Bailey are holding their ground.
In Kerry the Healy-Rae brothers, Micheal and Danny, are doing well. Micheal has already reached his quota of 13,250, with only 60% of the ballot boxes opened and tallied.
9am: Labour admits defeat as Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin gain support
The first results of the Irish general election 2016 are expected soon.
Exit polls in the Republic of Ireland's general election suggest the governing Fine Gael-Labour coalition could lose its majority.
The latest exit poll, from RTE, revealing that Fine Gael will likely remain the largest party, with 26% of the vote. The Labour Party received only 7.1%.
Fianna Fáil is close behind with 23%, while Sinn Féin received 16% of support. Their exit poll, released on Saturday morning, also shows that one third of the Irish electorate voted for independent or smaller parties.
There was a 66% turnout of voters on Friday, with over three million people turning out at 40 constituencies to drop their ballot.
Retiring Labour politician, for Dublin Mid-West, told the Irish Examiner “"I don't think Labour will be in the next government, that's for sure. I think we have to accept the verdict of the public.”
He added “As the two biggest parties are likely to be Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the onus will be on them to step up to the plate [and form a coalition]. I don't imagine Sinn Féin will be interested in stepping up to the plate.”
Sinn Féin has garnered an estimated 14% and 16%, according to the Irish Times and RTE exit polls. Martin McGuinness, speaking to the press from the county center in the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) said it was too early to say what options the party were considering and dismissed any suggestions that the party was disappointed with the poll results.
McGuinness also dismissed the possibility of a hung Dáil (parliament), if Fianna Gael and Fianna Fail were win the majority of votes. A hung parliament occurs when no single political party has an absolute majority of seats.
The Sinn Fein leader said "My sense is that a government will be formed, I don't think there will be a second election within weeks. How stable a government, that remains to be seen.”
Fianna Fáíl's director of elections, Billy Kelleher, also said it was too early to judge and predicted that a lot of seats will go down to the wire.
According to a sources within Fianna Fáíl, Fine Gael would rather turn to Sinn Féin to form a coalition government rather than consider joining forces with Micheál Martin’s party.
Tallies show that Fine Gael are losing a number of seats and the source said Enda Kenny would do anything to “save his soul” including joining forces with Gerry Adam’s party.
After tallies emerged showing Fine Gael losing a significant number of seats a senior Fianna Fáil sources told Independent.ie Mr Kenny will do anything to “save his soul” up to and including forming a coalition with Gerry Adams’s party.
A senior Fianna Fáil strategist said “Enda Kenny’s only short term goal at the moment is to save his own position so he is likely to do a deal with anyone.”
7am: Early results show Fine Gael and Labour government suffering big losses
As the results are tallied from Ireland’s General Election, early indications suggest that Fine Gael and Labour will suffer significant losses while Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail, and independents will make considerable gains. Some major figures in Irish politics are fighting for their political lives.
It would appear that the campaign run by the government coalition, which consists of Fine Gael and Labour, did not resonate with the Irish electorate. The performance of Taoiseach Enda Kenny will come under scrutiny in the coming days as his lackluster campaign came back to haunt him.
An angry Irish electorate failed to support a government which took draconian measures to stop the economic collapse but forced up unemployment, emigration and raised taxes to balance the budget. They also borrowed heavily.
Kenny appeared frustrated at the end after being questioned on his party’s assessment that Ireland was on the road to economic recovery during the campaign, when he described some voters as "All-Ireland whingers.”
The major beneficiaries of the swing in support look to be Fianna Fail, whose leader Michael Martin performed well in the debates in the run up to Friday’s election.
According to some reports, Kenny is feeling “deep disappointment” over the results.
“The only word I can use right now is deep disappointment,” Mark Mortell, Kenny’s advisor told Irish radio station Newstalk this morning, according to the Irish Independent.
“[Enda Kenny] fought an extraordinarily hard campaign, having had five very hard years as Taoiseach in the toughest of times. This is obviously really, really disappointing but you’ve got to take what the people say and live with the consequences."
It appears Kenny has good reason to be downcast, as exit polls show that his party will lose a significant number of seats.
Fine Gael went into the election with 36 percent of the seats in the Dail, and it looks like they will drop to 26 percent after the count is finished. Fianna Fail looks set to win 23 percent of the vote, a strong comeback for a party that was left in tatters after the 2011 election.
Labour, who were coalition partners with Fine Gael for five years, look set to fall from 19 percent to 7 percent. Sinn Fein will become the the third largest party for the first time with an estimated 15 percent of the vote, a five percent increase from the last election.
Before the election, Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin ruled out any chance of forming a government with Fine Gael saying “It’s not a consideration.”
Once all the votes have been counted the tricky business of forming a new government will begin.
The Dail meets on March 10th, but it is clear there is no viable or majority support for a new Taoiseach. A caretaker government likely led by Kenny will rule until a governing coalition with a Dail majority is found. In the past, that has taken weeks, even 82 days on one occasion.