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General Election in Ireland Possible Before Winter, Fianna Fáil Surpasses Fine Gael

Dublin: There are indications that Ireland may hold a general election before next winter. The constituent parties in the ruling coalition performed exceptionally well in the recent local elections, prompting leaders to consider solidifying government support. Currently, the government holds a slim majority of just one seat, despite being formed by three different parties. Leaders from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil believe that a stable government can be formed if a general election is held soon.

Local Election Results and Party Performance

The ruling Fianna Fáil emerged as the biggest winner in the June 7 local elections. Even before the final results were announced, Fianna Fáil had surpassed Fine Gael. The Fianna Fáil leadership is optimistic about becoming the largest party in the country. They secured 244 seats, with 12 more seats still pending announcement. Fine Gael holds 242 seats, giving Fianna Fáil a slight advantage. Fianna Fáil garnered 23% of the first preference votes, while Fine Gael received 22.9%. Jack Chambers, Fianna Fáil’s Director of Elections, confirmed the narrow lead. Sinn Féin is the third-largest party with 99 councillors, and the Labour Party holds fourth place with 55 seats.

The Social Democrats gained over 30 seats, making notable advances in the eastern part of the country. Twenty-four members of Independent Ireland were elected, while the Green Party secured 21 seats.

Despite the significant gains in the elections, Deputy Prime Minister Micheál Martin emphasised that the government is currently focused on the budget, not a general election. He mentioned that the government will also contest the upcoming by-elections for the European seats. Martin highlighted the complex issues facing the government, including health and housing crises, which need to be addressed.

Criticism of Sinn Féin

Martin attributed Sinn Féin’s poor performance to a lack of policy and advised against overreliance on opinion polls. He also mentioned that the party will soon deliberate on who will be the European Union commissioner.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald acknowledged the disappointing election results but noted the party’s progress in areas where it had not previously succeeded. She appreciated the hard work of those who helped increase the number of candidates.

Completion of Vote Counting

Vote counting has been completed in fifteen local authorities, including Dublin City Council, Cork City, Waterford, Limerick City and County Councils, Clare, Cavan, Galway, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan, Sligo, South Dublin, Tipperary, and Wicklow county councils.

Prospects of an Early General Election

Fine Gael co-minister and government chief whip Hildegard Naughton stated that the election results indicate a public desire for stability and possibly an early general election. However, she noted that the government has several tasks to complete before that. Finance Minister Micheál McGrath added that the general election date would be announced only after coalition leaders Simon Harris, Micheál Martin, and Eamon Ryan have discussed and reached an agreement.

The Prime Minister has the sovereign power to declare the election, but the final decision will be made after consultations. The government’s term is set to end in April next year, and a general election will likely be held after the budget in October.

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