The Greens’ seat total could still break into double figures, Eamon Ryan has said.
The party leader, who was elected last night in Dublin Bay South on the first count, said the electorate was focused more on housing and health issues rather than climate action, but he was still confident of more seat gains.
The party was on 7.4 per cent based on the exit poll carried out by Ipsos MRBI for RTÉ, The Irish Times, TG4 and UCD.
Ryan said that even though the Greens had received less of a surge than had been predicted, it was likely to be an improvement on the 5.6 per cent it won in the local elections last May. That result was considered a sign that environmental issues were moving to the centre of Irish politics. He said this had not continued in the general election because voters were more concerned about other issues.
“People are still concerned about [climate change] but their immediate concern may be 'I can't get a house, I can't pay the rent, I don't want to be stuck on a trolley.’ People voted on those immediate crises we have,” he said.
He added that climate action remained an “imperative” and said: “This decade has to be the green decade.”
The party ran a candidate in each constituency and Ryan said that the unpredictability of how Sinn Féin’s transfers would be shared meant they could still win more than ten seats.
“I hope to get to double figures. Even if we get slightly less than that, we will still have a much bigger and more diverse team in the Dáil,” he said.
The party had three TDs in the last Dáil with Ryan, Catherine Martin in Dublin Rathdown and Dublin-Fingal by-election winner Joe O’Brien. It is expected that those three will be returned. Neasa Hourigan in Dublin Central and Ossian Smyth in Dún Laoghaire could also win seats in early counts. A University College Dublin projection found that the party may win between nine and 14 seats.
The exit poll also predicted that the Labour Party could underperform on its poor 2016 campaign. The party won 6.6 per cent of that vote and lost 27 of its 33 seats after a backlash over its role as the junior party in coalition with Fine Gael.
Saturday night’s poll had the party on 4.1 per cent and the UCD projection said it could win between four and seven seats. It appeared likely that former Tánaiste Joan Burton would lose her Dublin West seat.
Brendan Howlin said that the party had been “not only squeezed but encircled” by Sinn Féin and other left-wing parties. The party leader appears likely to retain his Wexford seat but Jan O’Sullivan was in a battle to keep hers in Limerick City.
Seán Ó hArgáin, former Labour mayor of Kilkenny, told local radio station KCLR that the party’s association with the 2011-2016 government was still hurting them.
"There's no secret about it – Joan Burton was certainly a negative factor on the doorstep,” he said.
Aodhán Ó Riordáin could gain the party a seat in Dublin Bay North. Alan Kelly appeared likely to retain his in Tipperary and Seán Sherlock was in a good position in Cork East but the party will lose the seat vacated by retiring TD Willie Penrose in Longford-Westmeath.
The Social Democrats could double their TDs to four, with Jennifer Whitmore in Wicklow and Gary Gannon in Dublin Central in contention for seats. Co-leaders Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall were on course to retain theirs.
The election of Whitmore would be viewed as a coup for the party because it could be at the expense of Stephen Donnelly, who defected from the Social Democrats to Fianna Fáil during the last Dáil term.
Niall O’Tuathail, the Galway West candidate, did not poll as well as many had expected and will not be in the running for a seat.
Solidarity-People Before Profit were on 2.8 per cent according to the exit poll. Party chairman Kieran Allen projected that they could win between four and seven seats.
Richard Boyd Barrett topped the poll in Dún Laoighaire. Ruth Coppinger is in a fight for the last seat in Dublin West, Paul Murphy may retain his seat in Dublin South West due to transfers from Sinn Féin. The party’s Dublin Mid-West TD Gino Kenny said it was “not looking good in getting re-elected” based on early figures but he could retain his seat if Sinn Féin transfers fall his way.
Aontú founder Peadar Tóibín looked certain to retain his Meath West eat but his aim of winning up to three more seats does not look to be feasible based on the early tallies.