The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Ireland faces gridlock as election dead heat looms

- By Brendan Carlin

IRELAND was facing political gridlock last night after the country’s general election was predicted to end in a dead heat between the three main parties.

An exit poll showed Irish premier Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael and rival parties Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein virtually tied on just over 22 per cent each.

The extraordin­ary poll verdict would leave the Taoiseach clinging to power after pre-election forecasts predicted that his party would finish third.

But last night, there were warnings from some Irish MPs that a previous exit poll in 2016 had badly underestim­ated Fianna Fail’s actual share of the vote – making Mr Varadkar’s position more endangered.

The election – the Republic’s first to be held on a Saturday in over a century – was also being seen as a breakthrou­gh for Sinn Fein, which polled over eight per cent more compared with the last election.

However, as both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have categorica­lly ruled out going into coalition with Sinn Fein, there were prediction­s last night that only a fresh election could break the deadlock.

Bookmaker Paddy Power slashed its odds on another poll being held this year from 7/1 to 2/1 following the announceme­nt of the Ipsos MRBI exit poll of first-preference votes. When polls closed at 10pm, it gave the main party shares as Fine Gael on 22.4 per cent, Fianna Fail on 22.2 per cent and Sinn Fein on 22.3 per cent.

If Mr Varadkar is forced out, his demise would not be mourned by Tory Brexiteers after he sparked anger in the run-up to Brexit by saying Britain must ‘now come to terms with the fact it’s a small country’. He also said Brussels would be the ‘stronger team’ in post-Brexit trade talks and suggested the UK could rejoin the EU if Brexit does not ‘work out for them’.

Mr Varadkar had been hoping his administra­tion’s economic record and overall handling of the Brexit process would convince voters to keep him on. However, Brexit has, surprising­ly, barely featured in a campaign dominated by domestic issues such as spiralling rental prices, recordbrea­king homeless numbers, controvers­y over the state pension age and a struggling health service.

 ??  ?? CLINGING ON: Leo Varadkar casting his vote in Irish capital Dublin yesterday
CLINGING ON: Leo Varadkar casting his vote in Irish capital Dublin yesterday

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