COUNT DAY MORNING, 8.00am
Morning Ireland broadcasts RTE's exit poll. FG 36.1 per cent; Lab 20.5 per cent; FF 15.1 per cent; SF 10.1 per cent; Greens 2.7 per cent; Others 15.5 per cent. Professor Michael Marsh, the Poll of Polls expert, bravely tries to translate figures into seats.
His guesstimate is FG 72?+; Lab 38?+; FF 20?+; SF 10-15; Others 14-20; Greens 1. (? indicates projected votes)
So two uncertainties are immediately resolved: Enda Kenny is sure to be Taoiseach and there's no likelihood of single-party government.
The figures point to a Fine Gael-Labour coalition as the only realistic prospect when it comes to government formation.
That Labour and Fine Gael both look like having their best ever election should make for more harmony around the cabinet table, a much less bitter brew than if Labour had won enough seats to justify their having only three or four ministers.
It will also, I suspect, do something to settle the nerves of our EU colleagues who have been watching the shenanigans of our election campaign with mounting horror and incredulity.
What Europe, as much as Ireland, needs now is a strong stable Irish government with a clear mandate and it looks like the voters have delivered it
The scale of the Greens' meltdown is presaged by Paul Gogarty's extraordinarily early tweet that he has lost his seat.
RTE's tv coverage opens with Michael Marsh and John Bowman highlighting Fianna Fail's catastrophic performance, especially in Dublin where the exit poll says they're on 8 per cent and no seat is safe.
"It's looking pretty grim," admits Noel Dempsey, a masterpiece of understatement from the first former Fianna Fail minister with the guts to show his head outside the bunker.
He then reveals the full dimensions of the disaster: "To get a result [seats] even in the low 20s would be good for us." De Valera and Lemass must be turning in their graves.
Alex White, one of Labour's upcoming men, looks very content as he reflects on the prospect of 42 seats -- Michael Marsh's latest tweak of the figures; but he also predicts that Shane Ross will top the poll with up to a quota and a half in his own constituency of Dublin South where his surplus may mean a third seat for Fine Gael.
The 100 per cent tally from Dublin South-East confirms likelihood of two Fine Gael and two Labour, with John Gormley and Chris Andrews both losing their seats.
Looks like we're going to be denied a Michael Portillo moment in Dublin West. The tally give Brian Lenihan 15.6 per cent of the vote, far higher than Fianna Fail's norm in Dublin.
There's a fair chance that he may be Fianna Fail's only surviving Dublin deputy.
The 100 per cent tally from Dun Laoghaire points to three ministers losing their seats in one constituency: two Fianna Fail Cabinet Ministers, Mary Hanafin and Barry Andrews, and the former Green Minister of State, Ciaran Cuffe.
So Micheal Martin will have to find a new deputy leader. Another woman?
Mary Couglan's identification as Tanaiste with Brian Cowan is too toxic.
Sensational predictions now coming thick and fast. News from Donegal South West is that Mary Coughlan is under fierce pressure from the Independent and former Sinn Feiner, Tom Pringle.
Can't think of another example of an incumbent Tanaiste losing her or his Dail seat. Mary O'Rourke also seems doomed.
Will there be any women in Fianna Fail's decimated ranks in the Dail?
Must confess to a personal interest in the outcome in Donegal South West as I took Paddy Power's odds of 7/4 that the Lovely Girl would go down in flames.
More interesting news from a personal perspective, this time from Wicklow where Joe Behan -- another of my bets -- is in with a shout for the last seat.
But the big news here is that the vote of Dick Roche, the Minister of State for European Affairs and a former colleague in UCD, has completely collapsed.
Wexford produces the most phenomenal success story so far for an Independent: Mick Wallace is topping the poll with over 18 per cent of the vote and will probably be elected on the first count.
News at One
Gerry Adams looks like topping the poll in Louth; otherwise it's just a rehash of this morning's predictions as we wait for the first count results.
Accuracy of RTE's exit poll challenged by John Bowman who points out that the tallys for all the Dublin constituencies shows a significantly stronger performance (by 4-5 per cent) by Fianna Fail than the 8 per cent predicted.
Richard Bruton agrees that some of those canvassed as they exited the polling station were ashamed to admit that they had voted for Fianna Fail.
Phil Hogan, Fine Gael's strongman and director of elections, still refusing to concede that single-party government is out of the question.
The great imponderable is the unknown territory of what's going to happen to the preferences of so many Fianna Fail candidates being eliminated.
At last, there's a first count declaration. It comes from Dublin West where Joan Burton's reaching the quota on the first count makes her the first deputy elected to the 31st Dail.
Brian Lenihan is 2,000 votes short of the quota but it seems unlikely that he can't hang in there and get the last seat.
Pat Carey, a decent man, becomes the first Cabinet minister to come before the cameras and acknowledge that he's going to lose his seat in Dublin North West.
He speaks well, with an air of philosophic resignation, and offers handsome congratulations to poll-topper Roisin Shortall, who is poised to bring in a second Labour candidate.
Joe Behan concedes on camera that he's unlikely to get the last seat in Wicklow, so that's one of my bets down the tubes.
"I think the system is rotten to the core and I want to try to change it" -- this message from Mick Wallace on the verge of triumph in Wexford.
He makes an exotic spectacle in his traditional pink shirt with silver locks cascading down to his shoulders.
With Luke "Ming" Flanagan also looking likely to make it, it is going to be a colourful Dail.
What will they make of it in Brussels and Berlin?
Hard to believe that Kerry North is going to be without Fianna Fail representation; Fine Gael's Jimmy Deenihan topping the poll with Labour's Arthur Spring and Sinn Fein's Martin Ferris taking the other seats.
Pat Rabbitte tops the poll in Dublin South West with a quota and a half, which will win Labour a second seat.
Conor Lenihan bites the dust and Sinn Fein's Sean Crowe regains the Dail seat he lost in 2007.
TV3's projected results more favourable to Fine Gael than RTE's. FG 78, Lab 36, FF 17, SF 16, Greens 1, Others 18. If it's accurate it would give Fine Gael the leverage of winning more than twice Labour's number of seats.
It also puts the Shinners within touching distance of supplanting Fianna Fail as the principal opposition party.
Sean Haughey acknowledges he's going to lose his seat but is in denial about it spelling the end of the Haughey dynasty.
First glimpse of Peter Mathews, the candidate-in-waiting for Fine Gael's third seat in Dublin South -- suave, silver-haired and silver-tongued; looks as if he'd be just as comfortable running for the US Congress.
Pearse Doherty is elected on the first count in Donegal South West with a surplus of nearly 4,000 votes.
Mary Coughlan's fate rests on distribution of his preferences and she may get get squeezed between Pringle (the former Shinner) and O Domhnaill (her Fianna Fail running mate).
Back to the future! Michael Lowry set to top the poll in Tipperary for the fourth successive general election. Another triumph for parish pump politics.
Michael Noonan, fresh from his triumph in Limerick, makes light of his campaign brawls with Joan Burton and expresses the strongest Fine Gael preference yet for coalition with Labour coupled with distaste for reliance "on a handful of high maintenance Independents".
Another historical landmark. Fianna Fail has had to wait 10 hours on the day of the count before their first deputy was elected.
The dubious honour falls to Brian Lenihan, who scrambles home in Dublin West without reaching the quota.
Gerry Adams and Fergus O'Dowd are elected on the first count in Louth.
When Adams is chaired by the Shinners complete with Tricolour, Fine Gael supporters follow suit and press a Tricolour into O'Dowd's hands as they hoist him high.
Micheal Martin becomes the second Fianna Fail deputy in the 31st Dail when he's elected on the first count but with only 41 votes to spare.
In his first appearance since what Batt O'Keeffe described as 'the catastrophe of the tsunami', he offers gracious congratulations to Kenny and Gilmore but beyond that nothing but the platitudes of the defeated.
"I'm looking ahead . . . Fianna Fail will come back" -- whistling past the graveyard.