Senior figures in Ireland’s centre-right Fine Gael party have claimed they could be on course for single-party government.
Taoiseach-in-waiting Enda Kenny is on the verge of a series of historic successes paving the way for power alone, or with the backing of independents or a resurgent Labour Party.
The ruling Fianna Fail party has been annihilated by angry voters.
Two of its most high-profile Cabinet members are on the ropes as they fight for the last seats in former heartlands – Finance Minister Brian Lenihan in Dublin West and Tanaiste (deputy prime minister) Mary Coughlan in Donegal South-West.
Another two ministers, Mary Hanafin and Barry Andrews, are destined to lose in Dun Laoghaire as analysts and party advisers warn Fianna Fail will be lucky to get 20-plus seats.
Phil Hogan, Fine Gael’s director of elections, warned that no-one should rule out single-party government: “Anybody that writes off so early in the day… I think they’ll probably get a fright as the day wears on,” he told RTE Radio.
The first TD elected was Labour’s finance spokeswoman Joan Burton, who topped the poll in Dublin West.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams is on the verge of topping the poll in Louth after giving up his Westminster seat for West Belfast to run in the Republic.
Another senior Fianna Fail figure Conor Lenihan, who stood in Dublin South-West, was one of the first to admit defeat. “Clearly the tide was out for Fianna Fail in Dublin,” he said.
The Greens looked to have been hit hard for their time in coalition government and it appeared they would only survive if they manage to take the last seats in Dublin South or Carlow-Kilkenny. Green Party TD Paul Gogarty conceded defeat along with his party colleague Ciaran Cuffe.