LABOUR leader Joan Burton hung on in the fight of her political life to take the fourth and final seat in Dublin West.
The constituency also saw the return of Fianna Fáil to the seat once held by the late finance minister Brian Lenihan, while Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar and Ruth Coppinger of Anti-Austerity Alliance won re-election.
Sinn Féin failed to make a much-expected break-through with their candidate Paul Donnelly coming fifth.
A poll in the lead up to election day showed Ms Burton was in very real danger of being the third Tánaiste in successive general elections to lose their seat.
It was late in the evening on count day before Ms Burton learned she would keep her seat and for now she remains the leader of a battered party that will most likely go into opposition to lick its wounds.
Despite the misery besetting Labour nationwide, Ms Burton said she was “delighted” to be elected in Dublin West.
She noted it had been “a very difficult day” for the party but said “my role as leader continues” when asked if she would stay on.
"We won’t be making any decisions in relation to the future.... direction of the party until such time as we complete all of the counts…
"But I don’t at this point foresee the Labour party being involved in government," she added.
Fianna Fáil’s Jack Chambers paid tribute to Mr Lenihan in his victory speech describing him as “a real patriot” who “inspired my own interest in politics”.
On his party’s success in the election he said: “I think Fianna Fáil are back and the Irish people had their say on this government.
“This government wanted a coronation from the start. They had no vision and no energy. They just wanted to be re-elected without putting any positive policy platform forward."
Asked about the potential of a coalition with Fine Gael he said “It’s early days”.
“I think obviously people want stability. I wouldn't rule out a minority government. I think it's important that stability is put forthright and the national interest is kept at heart,” Mr Chambers added.
Health Minister Mr Varadkar was asked if he looked forward to working with Mr Chamber sin a potential coalition government.
“I'm not sure if that's going to arise. I've given my views already on a Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil coalition.
“I don't favour it. I don't think it's a good idea for either party. I don't think it would last. I don't trust them and I think it would open the door to Sinn Féin as the lead opposition.”
“It is clear that the public decided not to re-elect this government and I don't think the obligation to form a new government necessarily falls on us at all. It also falls on the opposition”.
Ms Coppinger said the likely results of the election nationwide will mean that “water charges will have to be scrapped”.
“They’ll be the top of any agenda for any new government and this issue was raised repeatedly and regularly on the doors by voters throughout the length and breadth of the constituency.”
She also said that any new government must solve the housing crisis, saying that 40pc of homeless people in Dublin are from her constituency.
Ms Coppinger said she stood on a platform of repealing the Eighth Amendment - that gives a mother and unborn baby an equal right to life - and said it will be a “major issue” in the next Dáil.
David McGuinness of the Independent Alliance – who quit Fianna Fáil after he lost at the selection convention - said he hasn’t made a decision on whether or not he would stand again if there is another election this year.