Results from Saturday’s Irish election are now final. Fianna Fáil finished just ahead with 38 seats (down six from last time), followed by Sinn Féin 37 (up 14) and Fine Gael 35 (down 15). The Greens were the best of the minors with 12 seats (up ten) as against Labour six (down one), the Social Democrats also six (up three) and People Before Profit five (down one). There are 21 independents, two down on 2016.*
That’s slightly worse for the major parties and slightly better for the minor parties and independents than the estimates I made yesterday. It’s not a big difference, but it does shift the parliamentary dynamics.
The two traditional major parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, whose agreement made the last government possible, have only 73 of the 160 seats between them – eight short of a majority. A coalition between them would probably be able to survive with the support of some independents, but it would be precarious.
Conversely, a left-wing alliance between Sinn Féin and the minor parties and independents would be close to a majority but most unlikely to be able to reliably count on one.
The logical outcome, and the only one likely to provide stability, is some sort of co-operation between Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin: either by way of a coalition between them, or by one of them agreeing to tolerate a government formed by the other with the aid of minor parties and/or independents.
Fine Gael seems to accept the logic of its position and to be preparing to go into opposition. But Fianna Fáil is deeply split on the question of whether (and if so, how) it should be willing to deal with Sinn Féin.
Expect a period now of circling around the problem before some sort of agreement is eventually worked out. Last time it took more than two months, and this may not be any easier.
* The size of parliament has increased by two, so the gains and losses do not add to zero.