Fine Gael has been in power since 2011 when its then leader Enda Kenny trounced their rivals, Fianna Fail, who fell into third place for the first time in Irish political history. But Fine Gael’s prime minister Leo Varadkar is facing defeat as the votes are counted from the weekend’s general election.
Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Provisional IRA, have demanded to be included in the Republic of Ireland’s next government after winning a record number of seats in the Irish Parliament.
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald told RTE: “We have had a historic election. There is no doubt that the old politics of the two-party system is now gone and over, a thing of the past. This vote for Sinn Fein is a vote for Sinn Fein to be in government.”
With votes still being counted in a country which uses proportional representation, Sinn Fein have already got 36 seats, compared to 24 for Fianna Fail and 21 for the ruling party of Fine Gael.
In its election manifesto Sinn Fein said it would establish a parliamentary committee and citizens assembly to plan for Irish unity and Ms McDonald said she believed there would be a border poll within five years.