Irish vote in historic election

2011-02-26 09:12

Dublin - Ireland's government prepared for a whopping defeat and the country for more uncertainty as angry voters turned out for a historic election triggered by the humiliating collapse of the "Celtic Tiger" economy.

The opposition Fine Gael party has enjoyed a wide lead during a campaign dominated by debate over how to rebuild an economy brought down by a property boom collapse, which in turn led to a bailout of Ireland's failing banks.

The governing Fianna Fail party is bracing for a rout. It led the government through Ireland's boom years in 1994-2007 and into the economic meltdown that end up with a humiliating bailout from the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

But whoever wins will find their ability to maneuver limited by the IMF and the bankers of Europe. Meanwhile, with unemployment at more than 13%, Ireland's young and jobless are heading for ports and airports, and the nation is reeling from tax increases and public service cuts.

The opposition has used Ireland's dire economic situation as a rallying call for change - Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, 60, campaigned in northwestern Ireland on Thursday urging voters to "turn your anger into action."

Ireland's plight has inspired a lively contest with a record 566 candidates including 179 independents for the 166 seats in Ireland's lower house in parliament, the Dail. Nearly 49,000 people have rushed to register to vote in recent weeks.

Turnout brisk

Turnout in most of the country was brisk Friday, running ahead of the 2007 election, national broadcaster RTE reported.

Opinion polls suggest that Ireland's 3.1 million voters will usher in a new government led by the Fine Gael party, which until now has been the perennial runner-up to Fianna Fail.

The key question was whether Fine Gael could win the 84 seats needed for a majority in the Dail. Labour has bumped along near 20%, ahead of Fianna Fail. Sinn Fein, the Northern Ireland-based party that supported the Irish Republican Army, is expected to gain seats.

The Labour Party hoped to pile up enough votes to deny Fine Gael an outright majority in the Dail and secure Labour a place in a coalition government.

That appealed to Mark Fortune, a civil servant who fear Fine Gael's plans to cut 20 000 public service jobs.

"I think Labour would hold them back a bit," Fortune said.

Voters have expressed a yearning for change, but Jack Fitzpatrick, 56, was cautious about getting it. "I would be not too optimistic that there will be too much change," he said after voting in Dublin.

Fine Gael's big advantage may be simply that it isn't Fianna Fail, the party in power when the good times stopped.

"I don't think there's a great deal of difference," said Michael Marsh, professor of comparative political behavior at Trinity College Dublin.

The most significant distinction among the three leading parties, Marsh said Friday, is that "Labour is speaking a bit more about pump priming ... and that dreaded word, tax."

John Webb, who said he voted for Fine Gael as "most likely to clean up the mess," feared that old loyalties would reassert themselves and that Fianna Fail would do better than opinion polls indicated.

"It all goes back to the civil war, though none of them fought in it," Webb said.

Fine Gael traces its ancestry to the revolutionaries led by Michael Collins who accepted a treaty with Britain in 1921, then fought a war with Fianna Fail's founders, who rejected the treaty and refused to take seats in the Dail until 1932.

Fianna Fail has been in turmoil: Brian Cowen, the prime minister, had fallen to record low popularity and resigned as party leader before the campaign. New leader Micheal Martin appears to have steadied the party without markedly improving its standing.

The votes will not be counted until Saturday and RTE will broadcast its exit poll results an hour before the count begins. Final results aren't expected before Sunday.


Read more on:    ireland

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Zille: Only DA can challenge ANC in F State

The DA is the only party that can challenge the ANC in the Free State, opposition party leader Helen Zille says.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Monday Muizenberg - 15:04 PM
    Road name: Main Road Southbound
    HEAVY DELAYS between Muizenberg and Fish Hoek
  • Monday Sir Lowry's Pass - 13:45 PM
    Road name: N2 Westbound
    HEAVY TRAFFIC over Sir Lowrys Pass - expect delays
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold 9780

BlackBerry 6 Engage your world with BlackBerry 6 OS on the...

From R3049.00

I'm shopping for:


There may be a break through, either through quiet contemplative time to connect to your deep side or forced on you more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.