A historic breakthrough for Sinn Fein in Ireland showed that there is still plenty of life in the left as Ireland joined other EU nations in eschewing the grasps of right-wing populism.
In a remarkable result, the centre-left party emerged as the most popular in the country, securing the most first preference votes and topping the polls in the vast majority of constituencies across the state.
The party received 24.5 per cent of the vote share, Fianna Fail got 22.2 per cent and Fine Gael 20.9 per cent.
None of the three will come close to securing enough seats to achieve a majority in the Dail parliament, so thoughts have already turned to the potential make up of a coalition administration.
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said she was willing to talk to all political leaders but expressed a desire to lead a coalition made up of left-leaning parties, without any input from Fianna Fail or Fine Gael, which are both centre-right in outlook.
While it remains unclear whether it will ultimately be part of any future coalition, Sinn Fein’s performance has undoubtedly sent shockwaves through Ireland’s political establishment.
It has been a devastating time for the left in Britain. But on an international level in 2020, a left wing party has come first in the Irish Republic for the first time, Spain formed its most left wing government since the 1930s, and a socialist is the US Democratic frontrunner https://t.co/NGNlFmRS77— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) February 9, 2020
Sinn Fein surge
In a result emblematic of the Sinn Fein surge, the first seat declared in the election was the party’s Donnchadh O Laoghaire, who topped the poll in Cork South Central ahead of Mr Martin.
Mr Varadkar was also outpolled by a Sinn Fein candidate in Dublin West, Paul Donnelly, with the Taoiseach only getting over the line after the fifth round of counting.
The Fine Gael leader, whose party is predicting a seat total in the “mid to high 30s” having entered the campaign with 47, said he would not be speaking to Mrs McDonald with a view to forming a coalition.
“My view on this is exactly what I have said during the campaign and what I said during the campaign and what my party said during the campaign wasn’t a tactic or a strategy, it was what we honestly believed and for us coalition with Sinn Fein is not an option,” he said.
“It’s been an election about change”
If parties do ultimately stick to their pre-election pledges then it would be extremely difficult for any of the three to form a stable government.
On Sunday, Mrs McDonald branded talk of excluding her party as “undemocratic”.
She said she had been in touch with the Greens, Social Democrats and People Before Profit to discuss the prospect of them joining her party in government.
“It’s been an election about change,” she said.
“The extraordinary thing is that it seems that the political establishment, and by that I mean Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, are in a state of denial.
“They are still not listening to what the people have said.
“I want us to have a government for the people. I want us to have ideally a government with no Fianna Fail or Fine Gael in it.
“I have started the contact with other parties to explore over the next days whether that is a possibility.”
Revolution in Irish politics
Asked if the result marked a revolution in Irish politics, Mrs McDonald replied: “Yes, you could call it that for sure.”
The uncertainty created by the results has even thrown up the possibility of another General Election.
There are 160 seats in the Dail parliament.
The speaker is automatically re-elected, leaving 159 seats up for grabs and 80 the magic number for a majority.