A STRONG end to what was widely perceived to be a weak campaign propelled Labour to its best-ever performance as voters turned away from the idea of a Fine Gael majority government.
Big gains in Dublin in particular pushed the party towards a record number of Dail seats, but it also managed to pick up TDs elsewhere across the country.
Warnings about a single- party government backed by independents, or an overall majority, seemed to have had a particularly strong effect in the capital, where Labour outperformed Fine Gael.
This was despite opinion polls in recent weeks showing Labour had slipped behind FG in the 12 Dublin constituencies.
In total, Labour took 18 of the 47 seats in the capital, compared to 16 for Fine Gael.
Nationally, it picked up 19.4pc of first-preference votes, an increase of 9.3pc on 2007, and almost doubled its number of seats from 20 to what could be as high as 38.
Although the party picked up a seat in Clare with Michael McNamara and was expected to hold Michael D Higgins's seat in Galway West, the strategy of getting high-profile candidates to run in the west was largely unsuccessful.
Jerry Cowley in Mayo, Frank McBrearty in Donegal South-West, Mae Sexton in Longford-Westmeath and Susan O'Keeffe in Sligo-North Leitrim all failed to take seats.
Tighter vote management in some constituencies -- such as Dun Laoghaire, where leader Eamon Gilmore narrowly failed to bring in running mate Ivana Bacik, and in Dublin Central, where Joe Costello couldn't get Aine Clancy over the line -- could have led to a higher seat count. But other TDs like Roisin Shortall in Dublin North-West, who helped get John Lyons elected, split their vote very effectively.
The party made history in Dublin North-West by ensuring that, for the first time since the 1920s, there is a constituency with no Fine Gael or Fianna Fail TD.
It is also the only constituency in the country with no Fine Gael TD in the 31st Dail.
Others in Dublin who brought in second TDs included Pat Rabbitte, Ruairi Quinn and Joanna Tuffy, while Brendan Ryan regained the Dublin North seat formerly held by his brother Sean.
Aodhan O Riordain picked up a seat in Dublin North-Central. There were also gains in Meath East with Dominic Hannigan, Kerry North with Arthur Spring and Cork South-West with Michael McCarthy.