|Enda Kenny - The new Taoiseach in-waiting|
The economic meltdown has led to the meltdown in Ireland's main party of power over the past 80 years, Fianna Fáil. Whilst they crumbled to their worst result since 1932, all of their main opponents made hay in their place.
Earlier thie week I predicted the following result here...
Fine Gael - 70-75 seats - short of the 84 needed for an outright majority.
Labour - 35-40 seats
Fianna Fáil - 25-30 seats
Sinn Féin - 10-12 seats
The final result is as follows...
Fine Gael - 76 seats (36.1% of the vote)
Labour - 37 seats (19.4% of the vote)
Fianna Fáil - 20 (17.4% of the vote)
Sinn Féin - 14 seats (9.9% of the vote)
Fine Gael then scored their best ever election result - surpassing the 70 seats they won in November 1982.
Labour meanwhile surpassed their best election result - surpassing the 33 seats they won in 1992.
Sinn Féin meanwhile surpassed their best election result - surpassing the 5 seats they won in 2002.
Fianna Fáil meanwhile saw their vote collapse by over 24% and lost 57 seats, slumping from the 77 seats won in the previous election in 2007 to the now relatively derisory total of just 20.
Fianna Fáil's government partners, the Green Party, were not spared the pain - their grouping of 6 were annihilated and wiped out in its entirety.
An interesting footnote is the growth of the 'left' vote. The newly formed United Left group of left-wing parties have made inroads - electing 2 Socialist Party members and 2 also from the People Before Profit Alliance. In addition, a hefty 15 Independents were also elected - all demonstrating that a significant number of Irish voters, some 15%, were turned off from voting for any of the major parties.
It is for these reasons that the 2011 Irish General Election will go down in the history books as a watershed moment when everything changed. The Fianna Fáil hegemony as the largest political party for the previous 79 years has come to a crushing, devastating, humiliating defeat.
We can expect to see early discussions between Fine Fael and Labour. They have worked together in government on many occasions in the past between 1948-1951, 1954-1957, 1973-1977, 1981-1982, 1982-1987 and 1994-1997 so such an arrangement is almost to be expected.
But this time, instead of forming a majority to oust the largest party Fianna Fáil as was the case on all of the above occasions, this time they do so as the largest two parties in the Dáil. If they do form a coalition, they will form a government consisting of 113 Deputies out of a total of 166 - making it by my estimate, the biggest parliamentary majority in the history of the Irish Republic.
If this does indeed transpire, it will leave Fianna Fáil as the main opposition which will give them a role to play as they plan to re-build after the electoral humiliation. At the same time, Sinn Féin are already claiming that they will be the main left-ist opposition party to the government in Dublin and with an unprecedented ?? Deputies to their name, they will be an even greater force to be reckoned with south of the Irish border than ever before.
A New Era in Irish Politics
It really is all change. Enda Kerry will now be the new Taoiseach and first from Fine Gael since John Bruton in between 1994-1997.
Labour will be emboldened by their record performance and Sinn Féin will be delighted with a significant advance in their numbers.
With just 20 Deputies in the new 31st Dáil, Fianna Fáil face an uncertain future. Can they claw themselves back from this historic law and ensure that the seismic shift in the re-alignment of Irish politics is merely a temporary blip? Time will tell but such is catastrophic nature of this result for Fianna Fáil, I very much doubt that Irish politics will ever revert to the ways of old.
But it really all depends on the ability of the new administration to deal with the economic mess that it has been left by the out-going Brian Cowen led government. If they can bring a sense of stability to their beleaguered nation, then they have every chance of guaranteeing the complete re-alignment of Irish politics at the next election which will take place by 2016 at the latest.