Eamon Gilmore faces a struggle to hang onto his job as Labour Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister after a double election drubbing at the hands of Sinn Fein and Independents. Only around seven percent are likely to have voted for Labour down from 19 per cent.
Gilmore’s Labour Party are facing wipe-out in both the European and local elections according to exit polls taken for state broadcaster RTE.
As counting began on Saturday morning in the local elections and in two by-elections for the Irish parliament, experts were predicting a collapse in the Labour vote.
And it doesn’t look like it will get any better for Gilmore and Labour when the European election count gets underway on Sunday.
The RTE exit poll reports that independents have won the largest number of votes in both local and European elections with Sinn Fein the biggest winners amongst the established parties.
Senior coalition partners Fine Gael have also taken a drubbing in the mid-term elections according to an RTE Exit Poll.
The poll says support for Independents has risen to 28 percent with Sinn Fein up to 16 percent.
Labour has attracted just seven percent support in the local elections and only six percent in the European elections.
Support for Labour stands at just a third of the vote it achieved in the 2011 general election according to RTE.
The station reports that Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael is also down considerably to 24 percent, a drop of 12 points from the general election.
Independents are the big winners in 27 percent, well ahead of all the political parties.
Opinion polls had suggested over 20 percent support for Sinn Fein but the exit poll puts it at 16 percent.
The party is in the running for three European seats with Lynn Boylan expected to top the poll in Dublin and Matt Carthy polling strongly in Midlands North West where sitting parliamentarian Luke Ming Flanagan looks certain to be elected.
Political geographer Adrian Kavanagh’s has confirmed to the Irish Independent that rough estimates of seat predictions shows dramatic losses for the Coalition of the Labour Party and Fine Gael.
He says Labour will drop below 50 council seats and Fine Gael will be down to about 250 seats.
Sinn Fein will more than double its number of council seats and independents' seat numbers will go up by more than 100, according to the paper.
Kavanagh says Fianna Fail’s seat numbers will increase due to the redrawn local electoral areas and the losses for Fine Gael.
Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland, has described the elections as a ‘watershed’ moment in Irish political history.
His party colleague Pearse Doherty predicted: “Sinn Fein will be the big winners if these exit polls stand up.”
And Labour Party Minister Brendan Howlin admitted the party had been ‘bracing itself’ for weeks for this result.
He told RTE that people understood why harsh cuts had to be implemented but ‘they don’t like it and won’t reward Labour for it.’
Howlin added: “People wanted to give Labour a good smacking and they did. Now is the time for careful evaluation.”