Prime Minister Enda Kenny says voters have clearly rejected his 5-year-old coalition with the Labour Party, but as leader of the largest party he will remain in pole position to form the next Irish government if a different cross-party partnership can be forged.
Kenny — who won easy re-election to his own parliamentary seat in Mayo, western Ireland, for the 12th straight time dating back to 1975 — says he cannot consider forming a historic coalition with longtime nemesis Fianna Fail until full results are declared Sunday or Monday.
He concedes that Ireland could face a second 2016 election if he or Fianna Fail chief Micheal Martin are unable to forge a parliamentary majority with each other or other smaller parties.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is leading his nationalist party to its best-ever result in the Republic of Ireland, a solid third-place finish, and calls its involvement in a future Irish government just a question of time.
Adams is topping the results table as ballots continue to be counted Saturday night in his border district of Louth, midway between Dublin and Belfast. The longtime Northern Ireland-based leader won a parliamentary seat in Louth in 2011 as he sought to spearhead Sinn Fein’s growth in the independent south.
Adams says he expects his party to double its seats in parliament from the 14 it won in 2011. But he says it’s too early to say whether Sinn Fein could gain a slice of power in Ireland’s next coalition government.
He called Sinn Fein’s rise “another step in the realignment of politics on this island.”