Counting is continuing in the General Election this evening with results flowing in from constituencies across the country. Parties have been battling it out for seats with Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin emerging as the biggest parties. We put a call out on social media earlier today for questions and our political reporter Aisling Kenny has been shedding light on the most frequently raised topics.
What is the likelihood of no government being formed and another election being called?
Parties will be working to find a way to form a government to avoid another general election over the coming days. General elections in quick succession don't necessarily give more clarity. The challenge of forming the next government will likely be immense for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil because one of them might have to go back on their word and enter into coalition with Sinn Féin. There was a case in 1927 where there was an election in June and politicians couldn't form a stable government, a few months later they went to the polls again which was more conclusive. Parties will be reluctant to go to the polls for a second time in case it goes down badly with voters. However, it might be in Sinn Féin's interests if another election was called because the party could get more seats if it ran more candidates.
What swayed younger voters to vote for Sinn Féin?
Sinn Féin responded to a desire for change in this election, particularly from younger voters. Housing and health were the big issues that the Fine Gael thought would dominate the early of days of the campaign. The party thought attention would switch to the economy and Brexit but that never happened.
What are the options when it comes to forming a government ?
We're a long way from seeing the shape of the 33rd Dáil and it will be up to political parties to sit down and decide who might govern. Nobody knows what is going to happen until all of the votes are counted and all of the results are in. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had repeatedly ruled out going into government with Sinn Féin, although earlier today appeared to open the door to the possibility when he said people would "assess" the situation in the coming days. The option of Fine Gael and Sinn Féin joining forces is also possible although Leo Varadkar appears to have ruled that out. If Fianna Fáil get more seats than Fine Gael there is the option of a minority Government with Fine Gael on the opposition benches.
Why did the Fine Gael economic message not resonate with voters?
This is the second time Fine Gael made the mistake of focusing on the economy. During the 2016 election the party used the slogan "keep the recovery going" which backfired at the time - it was the same this time around with Fine Gael appealing to people to stick with them. When people feel the economy is doing okay they turn their attention to issues affecting them on a daily basis including housing and health. Events over the past few years also went against the party including the overspend on the National Children's Hospital. There was also anger about the Government's failure to improve the health service and solve the housing crisis. The issue of pensions also dominated the campaign , amid anger from some private sector workers over being forced to retire at 65 but having to sign up for unemployment benefit until their state pension kicks in aged 66.
Do campaigns matter?
The traditional attachment to political parties has started to fade in recent years. More people make up their mind either on the day or in the days before the election campaign. This means that election campaigns are important and do sway people's votes. Fine Gael launched attacks on Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin in the last few weeks of the campaign and that strategy seems to have worked with Fine Gael gaining ground in the last few days of the campaign. Sinn Féin also managed to mobilise their supporters to come out and vote in this election - which hasn't been the case in past elections.
This was supposed to be a climate change election but did that materalise?
The climate issues did not take centre stage in this campaign as expected. However, Adrian Kavanagh, from the Geography Department at NUI Maynooth says the Greens had a good election. He says it is the party's biggest ever number of votes in a General election performance. "The climate change issue did get overlooked in the campaign it didn't get a lot of attention in debates and it wasn't really a big factor." He continues saying, "there is a limited pool of voters for the green message they are a classic small party vote and will never be in a position to lead in government."