Feb. 27, 2016, 9:14 a.m.
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Counting has officially begun in the 2016 general election as an Irish Times Ipsos/MRBI exit poll shows the Coalition parties falling short of a majority.
The ballot boxes opened at count centres across the country at 9am on Saturday as both Fine Gael and Labour saw a slump in the latest poll, published on Friday night.
The majority of counts are due to conclude late on Saturday evening, but a number of centres will suspend counting tonight and resume tomorrow morning.
The Irish Times is following the count on our live blog and you can check any individual constituency updates here.
According to the exit poll, Fine Gael support has dropped from 36.1 per cent in the last general election to only 26.1 per cent – a far worse result than the party anticipated at any stage of the campaign.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, Fine Gael general secretary Tom Curran admitted it looked like a disappointing day for the party.
The poll also indicates the Labour Party received just under 8 per cent support, far behind the 19.5 per cent it achieved at the 2011 general election.
The Coalition parties did not benefit from a swing in the final days of the campaign, according to the poll.
Fianna Fáil appears to have made a significant recovery since the last election and is could almost double its number of Dáil seats.
Support for Sinn Féin has increased since 2011. There are also big gains for Independents and smaller parties.
The poll indicates the parties’ vote shares to be: Fine Gael 26.1 per cent; Labour 7.8 per cent; Fianna Fáil 22.9 per cent; Sinn Féin 14.9; AAA-PBP 3.6 per cent; Greens 3.5 per cent; Social Democrats 2.8 per cent; Renua 2.6 per cent; and Independents 16.1 per cent.
At the last general election in 2011, Fianna Fáil took 17 per cent of the first preference vote and Sinn Féin 10 per cent.
In Dublin, Fine Gael has emerged as the largest party with 25.7 per cent of the vote, followed by Sinn Féin with 15.4 per cent, according to the poll. Fianna Fáil is on 14.6 per cent, Labour 9.4 per cent and others received 34.9 per cent.
The 2016 General Election Exit Poll was conducted exclusively on behalf of The Irish Times by Ipsos MRBI, among a national sample of 5,260 voters at 200 polling stations throughout all constituencies in the Republic of Ireland.
Voters were randomly selected to self-complete a mock ballot paper on exiting the polling station. The accuracy level is estimated to be approximately plus or minus 1.2 per cent.
If the final result is close to the exit poll predictions, the Fine Gael/-Labour Coalition will be far short of the numbers required to form a majority government.
The complexity of the single transferable vote system makes it difficult to provide an accurate prediction of the number of seats which will be won by the various parties .