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Irish election exit poll predicts three-party ‘tie’

Image caption From left: Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald The three main political parties have tied in first preference votes, according to an exit poll for the Republic of Ireland’s general election. The earliest indications from the poll suggest there is little difference between Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil.Polling closed…

Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald

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From left: Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald

The three main political parties have tied in first preference votes, according to an exit poll for the Republic of Ireland’s general election.

The earliest indications from the poll suggest there is little difference between Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil.

Polling closed in the general election at 22:00 GMT.

Counting to elect the 33rd Dáil (Irish parliament) will begin on Sunday in all 39 constituencies.

The poll was commissioned jointly by RTÉ, The Irish Times, TG4 and UCD and included sampling of 5,000 respondents at 250 polling stations.

RTÉ says voting appears to have been “solid”.

However, there is no expectation of a spike in voting compared to 2016 despite it being the first ever Saturday general election vote.

Factors that may have affected turnout include the poor weather and international rugby.

The exit poll indicates that Fine Gael secured 22.4% of first preference votes, closely followed by Sinn Féin (22.3%) and Fianna Fáil (22.2%).

It also suggests the Green Party secured 7.9% of first preference votes, followed by Labour (4.6%), Social Democrats (3.4%), Solidarity People Before Profit (2.8%).

Indications are that Independents took 11.2% of first preference votes.

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AFP/BEN STANSALL

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Leo Varadkar casts his vote in Dublin

The poll suggests a move toward Sinn Féin among younger voters, with the party receiving the largest number of first preference votes among 18-24 years olds (31.8%).

The majority of voters over the age of 65 appear to have given their first preference to Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil

There is a margin of error of 1.3% in either direction in the exit poll.

A total of 160 representatives will be returned to the Dáil and newly elected TDs will gather on 20 February .

The ceann comhairle, or speaker, is automatically re-elected.

In most situations, the speaker does not vote, so a government will need 80 TDs to hold a majority.

It is unlikely that any party will reach that number, so another coalition government is probable.

The election uses proportional representation with a single transferrable vote.

Voters wrote “1” opposite their first choice candidate, “2” opposite their second choice, “3” opposite their third choice and so on.

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AFP

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Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin and family at the St Anthony’s boys’ school polling station in Ballinlough, County Cork

People living on 12 islands off the coasts of counties Galway, Mayo and Donegal voted on Friday.

Legislation to allow islanders to vote on the same day as other voters had not been passed by the time the general election was called.

Traditionally, islanders have voted ahead of the rest of the country to ensure that bad weather does not hamper the return of ballot boxes to the mainland in time for the count, which will start on Sunday.

About 2,100 island residents were eligible to vote.

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Niall Carson

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Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald casts her vote at St Joseph’s School in Dublin

It is the first time that a general election in the Republic of Ireland has been held on a Saturday.

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