Ireland's left-wing Sinn Fein seeking to form coalition after poll

Dublin -

By Fiona Smith, - Speculation about government formation began on Sunday in Ireland, where election gains for left-wing republican Sinn Fein were set to deprive the traditionally dominant parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, of enough seats to govern.
"I'll talk to everyone," Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said in her Dublin constituency, where the count started at 9 am on Sunday, the morning after nationwide polls.

McDonald said she had been in contact with the Greens and left-leaning Social Democrats and People Before Profit Solidarity grouping.
McDonald, whose party courts working-class votes and aspires to a United Ireland, said Sinn Fein is a party that enjoys the "confidence of almost a quarter of this democratic State."
"This is not a protest vote - this is certainly an election that is historic in proportion, this is an election that is changing the shape and the mould of Irish politics," McDonald said.
Both centre-right parties, Fianna Gael and Fianna Fail, have previously ruled out a coalition with Sinn Fein.
"The key issue for me is that the country must come first," Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said in response to the initial forecast. "We are now entering into a different fragmented political landscape and a period of instability would not be good for the country."
In the constituency of the outgoing prime minister, or taoiseach, in Dublin West, Sinn Fein's Paul Donnelly was elected on the first count, ahead of the centre-right Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar.
Donnelly secured 12,456 votes compared to Varadkar's 8,478.
Left-wing republican Sinn Fein is neck-and-neck with centrist Fianna Fail and Fine Gael after Saturday’s election, according to unofficial tallies carried out by party officials at count centres and exit polls.
"There has been a tectonic shift," former Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said.
Ruling centre-right party Fine Gael had 22.4 per cent of the vote, to tie with Sinn Fein, which had 22.3 per cent, and opposition Fianna Fail, with 22.2 per cent, according to an exit poll carried out for The Irish Times daily newspaper and the national broadcaster RTE.
Exit polls suggest that Fine Gael failed to sell its message of economic recovery, with Sinn Fein - once viewed as the political wing of the terrorist Irish Republican Army (IRA) - making huge gains since the last election, where it had 13.8 per cent.
Labour, traditionally the third force in Irish party politics, looked set to get 4.6 per cent.
"Sinn Fein has captured the zeitgeist of the day," Rabbitte told national broadcaster RTE. "Whether that will be tested in government is another question," he added.
Just fourteen of the 159 seats have been filled in 39 constituencies throughout the country after a day of counting.
Under Ireland's electoral system of proportional representation with a single transferable vote, counts can take a long time. Final official results may not be available until late Sunday or Monday.


Sunday, February 9th 2020
By Fiona Smith,

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