Exit polls spell doom for Coalition
By Daniel McConnell, Fiachra Ó Cionnaith and Elaine Loughlin
The positions of Enda Kenny and Joan Burton as the leaders of their parties are now under question as Fine Gael and Labour will not be able to regain power and are well short of an overall majority in the Dáil.
Two separate exit polls have revealed major slumps in support for the Coalition parties.
An exit poll conducted for RTÉ indicates bad news for the Government parties and gains for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Independents and Others.
The poll indicates first preference support for Fine Gael is at 24.8%, well down on previous opinion polls and the 2011 general election results.
It suggests support for Labour is at 7.1%, Fianna Fáil at 21.1% and Sinn Féin at 16%.
The poll suggests Independents are at 11%; AAA-PBP at 4.7%; Social Democrats at 3.7%; Green Party at 3.6%, the Independent Alliance at 3%, while it indicates support for Renua is at 2.4% and Others at 2.6%.
The poll, carried out by Behaviour and Attitudes, was conducted among a sample of 4,283 voters around the country who were interviewed immediately after they had voted in the General Election yesterday.
This poll was conducted throughout all 40 Dáil constituencies and undertaken at 225 polling stations.
Interviews were conducted face-to-face with randomly selected individuals throughout the hours of polling.
The margin of error is plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.
A separate Irish Times exit poll has shown support for Fine Gael has plummeted from 36.1 per cent in the last general election in 2011 to only 26.1 per cent.
Should these results bear out in this weekend, it would be a far worse result than the party thought possible.
Such a slump in support is likely to lead to questions as to Enda Kenny’s leadership.
The poll indicates Joan Burton’s Labour Party is facing a major wipe out as it received just under 8 per cent support, far behind the 19.5 per cent it achieved at the 2011 general election.
Fianna Fáil seem to be major beneficiaries and have seen a strong recovery and could reach their desired target of 40 seats, up from the 20 they returned with in 2011.
Support for Sinn Féin has increased since 2011. There are also big gains for Independents and smaller parties.
The poll indicates the first preference votes of the parties is: Fine Gael 26.1 per cent; Labour 7.8 per cent; Fianna Fáil 22.9 per cent; Sinn Féin 14.9; AAA/PBP 3.6 per cent; Greens 3.5 per cent; Social Democrats 2.8 per cent; Renua 2.6 per cent; Others 28.3 per cent.
Amid an expected voter turnout in the mid-60s, that is below the 69.9% and 73.33% recent highs of 2011 and 1987, government parties Fine Gael and Labour are facing a mounting battle to remain in power.
A failure to secure Fine Gael’s first ever back-to-back general election victories amid a mooted economic recovery could see Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s position as leader come under fresh threat.
Similarly, Tánaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton will automatically face an internal leadership race if the junior coalition partner does not re-enter government, and she is facing a local battle with left-wing TD Ruth Coppinger for the final Dublin West seat.
While Fianna Fáil has seen a resurgence during the election campaign under leader Micheál Martin, the Cork South Central TD will face his own difficulties if a predicted hung Dáil forces the party to consider a previously ruled-out Fine Gael coalition or short-term support for a minority version of the current government in order to prevent the need for a second election within weeks.
As polling station doors closed at exactly 10pm last night after a traditional last-minute voter surge, it was widely expected that Fine Gael may win fewer than 60 seats, with Labour struggling to hit 10, Fianna Fáil hoping to reach the high 30s, and Sinn Féin and Independents predicted to easily reach into the 20s.
As a result, the current coalition is unlikely to return the minimum 79 TDs needed to form a government by itself, while the fact that all other realistic prospects have been ruled out by the parties involved could mean a hung Dáil.
Meanwhile, a Sinn Féin canvassing van for Cork South Central candidate Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire was videoed parked outside the Greenmount national school polling station at around 10.30am yesterday playing the Sam Cooke civil rights anthem ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ over its loudspeakers.
And some candidates — including Louth Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick and Cork North Central Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O Brien — posted ballot papers with a number one sign next to their name on social media sites, breaching electoral act rules.
Read More: GE16 live blog: The count