The Green Party of Ireland has recorded its best ever general election result, winning 7.1 per cent of first preference votes as Sinn Féin broke the historic centre-right duopoly of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
The general election will be remembered for Sinn Féin’s breakthrough, which saw the left-wing republican party win 24.5 per cent of first preference votes coming in ahead of the centre-right parties Fianna Fáil on 22.2 per cent and Fine Gael, the current ruling party, on 20.9 per cent.
This was the first time that a party other than Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael had won the popular vote since 1932, although Sinn Féin’s decision to only stand candidates in 48 seats has seen it fail to translate its vote share into a commanding share of the seats.
Fianna Fáil is the largest party in the 180-seat Dáil Éireann (lower house of the Irish Parliament) with 38 seats, followed by Sinn Féin on 37 seats, and current Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael, with 35 seats.
Though headlines have been dominated by Sinn Féin’s performance, the Greens were the other big winners on the night. Having only won two seats at the last election with 2.7 per cent of first preferences, the party increased its vote share by 4.4 per cent to 7.1 per cent, taking 12 seats in the Dáil.
Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan and Deputy Leader Catherine Martin both topped the poll in their constituencies of Dublin Bay South and Dublin Rathdown. Other notable wins came from its longest-serving councillor Malcolm Noonan in Carlow-Kilkenny, and MEPs Ciarán Cuffe and Grace O’Sullivan.
While the party was keen to make this election the ‘climate election’, it appears Irish voters have put the climate aside for another day, with The Irish Times exit poll showing that just six per cent of voters considered climate change the main issue at this election, with 30 per cent naming health and 26 per cent naming housing as their main concerns.
The Greens will now be crucial in the formation of any governing coalition. With Fine Gael ruling out working with Sinn Féin due to its tax policies and historic links to the IRA, and Fianna Fáil lukewarm at best to the republican party, the Greens will hold a strong hand when negotiations begin.
Ryan has stated that his party is open to a coalition, though before entering any formal agreement the Green Party needs two thirds of party members to approve such an arrangement.