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Exit poll: Election a three-way tie with FG, FF and SF neck and neck on count day

  • Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein neck and neck at 22pc
  • Country faces prospect of hung Dáil
  • Results indicate Taoiseach managed to claw back some late support

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Micheal Martin, Mary Lou McDonald and Leo Varadkar (PA)

Micheal Martin, Mary Lou McDonald and Leo Varadkar (PA)

Micheal Martin, Mary Lou McDonald and Leo Varadkar (PA)

The outcome of the General Election is on a knife edge as the three main political parties look to be in a dead heat, according to an exit poll.

After weeks of speculation about the outcome, Fine Gael, Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail were tied, meaning the make-up of the next Dail is far from clear as counting begins.

The country is facing the prospect of a hung Dail once the votes are counted. Lengthy government formation talks are likely to follow.

Fine Gael (22.4pc) Sinn Fein (22.3pc) and Fianna Fail (22.3pc) are level in terms of public support according to the poll.

The results indicate that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar may have managed to claw back support for Fine Gael in the dying days of the campaign.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has led her party to its best ever election result. However, Ms McDonald is running far fewer candidates that her rivals and is not expected to gain as many seats as they will.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin will be disappointed that his party is polling in third place. Despite this, the party could still turn out to have the largest number of seats in the next Dail.

The Ipsos MRBI poll for RTE, The Irish Times, TG4 and UCD shows the Green Party on 8pc, Labour on 5pc, the Social Democrats on 3pc, Solidarity People Before Profit on 3pc and Independents on 11pc.

More than 5,000 people were surveyed at 250 polling stations around the country with a margin of error of 1.3pc.

Ireland turned out early and in steady numbers to vote in the first Saturday general election in more than 100 years yesterday.

Factors such as the televised Ireland vs Wales rugby international in Dublin and the threat of a severe storm throughout the country later in the day may also have motivated people to vote early.

There were also indications that younger people showed up to vote in higher than typical or expected numbers, a development which has particularly encouraged Sinn Fein and others on the left.

In the exit poll Sinn Fein achieves a massive 31.8pc among 18- to 24-year-olds compared with Fine Gael's 15.5pc. The Greens and Fianna Fail were both on 15pc in this age bracket. Voters over the age of 65 primarily stuck with the two main parties.

Fianna Fail will be particularly disappointed with the party's performance in the capital. Mr Martin knew that if he was to find an easy path to power, he would have to make considerable gains in Dublin.

However, the party appears to have only achieved 14pc, trailing Fine Gael on 21.1pc and Sinn Fein on 22.3pc.

Mr Martin's candidates performed better in the rest of Leinster where they polled 26pc, four points ahead of Mr Varadkar's party. Sinn Fein were second in the 11 counties outside of Dublin on 24pc.

Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are neck and neck in Munster on 26pc and 25pc respectively. Sinn Fein are back on 18pc.

In Connacht-Ulster, Fine Gael edged in front marginally on 23pc, just a single point ahead of Fianna Fail. Sinn Fein are on 20pc.

The Green Party will be somewhat disappointed that despite much talk about climate action being a key factor in this election they have failed to make a major breakthrough outside of Dublin.

Fine Gael were quick to react to the poll with party chairman Martin Heydon saying: "We are in the hunt in every constituency for seats and are determined to come out of this election as the largest party."

Sunday Independent