Sinn Fein increase seats in the Dail
Published 28/02/2016 | 02:30
Sinn Fein was on course to increase the number of Dail seats as votes continued to be counted across the country last night.
However, exit polls suggested the party's national support has fallen drastically over the last year following a series of controversies and despite a huge spend.
A Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll in February last year had the party holding 26pc of the vote.
But an exit poll carried out for the Irish Times by Ipsos/MRBI had Gerry Adams's party on just 14.9pc.
Whether the party would have won more seats had Mr Adams stepped aside as leader before the election remains unknown.
However, the polls suggest the continuing number of controversies surrounding the Sinn Fein leader stifled the party's growth nationally.
Questions over Mr Adams's leadership dogged Sinn Fein throughout the campaign, but he secured his seat in Louth and brought his running mate Imelda Munster with him.
Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, who is tipped to succeed Mr Adams, just missed out on winning her seat on the first count but eventually topped the poll.
The party's Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness decided to attack the decision to try Thomas 'Slab' Murphy before the Special Criminal Court on the day of the election count.
He said that throughout the trial Murphy and the people of south Armagh were subject to an unfair level of accusation.
Mr McGuinness said: "I think it's not lost on the electorate out there, who watched the shenanigans that took place during the course of the election and how different decisions were made, and I think those decisions were made to have an impact on the election and that is totally and absolutely undemocratic.
"Many people have been asking questions as to why Tom Murphy was brought before the Special Criminal Court for basically failing to pay taxes allegedly on a part-time wage," he said.