FIANNA Fail’s Bobby Aylward is the clear frontrunner after the first count in the Carlow/Kilkenny by-election.
After almost ten hours of counting in The Hub event centre in Cillian Hill outside Kilkenny City, the returning officer announced Mr Aylward had taken almost 28pc of the poll with 18,572 votes.
After the tally, which also showed him with 28pc of vote, Mr Aylward said he was "optimistic but cautious".
Trailing behind him by almost 5,000 vote was Fine Gael’s David Fitzgerald with 13,744 or a little more than 20pc of the poll.
Sinn Fein candidate Kathleen Funchion received 10,806, however, party sources have conceded she is out of the race.
Renua candide Patrick McKee received 6,365 votes but party leader Lucinda Creighton earlier praised her party’s first election candidate and insisted he will take a seat at the next general election.
Labour’s Willie Quinn received just 4,673 votes or 7pc of the poll, most of which came from Carlow where he is based.
The Green Party’s Malcom Noonan received 4,673 votes, and Anti Austerity Alliance candidate Conor MacLiam received 2,194 votes, while People Before Profit’s Adrienne Wallace got 2,377.
Independent Breda Gardner was strongest of the non-party candidates with 2,792 votes.
Four other Independent candidates - Daithi Holohan, Elizabeth Hourihane, Peter O’Loughlin and Noel Walsh were eliminated.
Their 1,762 votes are now being distributed between the other candidates.
There was 65.7pc turnout.