The leaders of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have both been trying to put a positive spin on the picture that is emerging from the local election counts around the country.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it is a "very good day" and that his party has won the popular vote.

His initial target was to win an extra 50 seats, although this was revised downwards last week to between 20 and 30 seats last week in what was a necessary piece of expectation management.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has probably accurately predicted that his party will remain the largest of local government. Such an outcome will at least help to disguise what has been a poor strategy for the European elections.

While the votes are still being counted, a combination of the RTÉ TG4 exit poll, tallies from around the country and how party members are reading it, point to mixed fortunes for both parties.


While the campaign itself suggested the battle was for rural Ireland, it now appears that Fine Gael might have been as well to focus on Dublin. 

Late this week, as polling day drew closer, some in Fine Gael spotted a trend that they were going to lose votes to the Green Party, who could hit its middle-class base.

The exit polls appear to bare this out. For the local elections, Fine Gael is polling at 23% nationally but this drops to 15% in Dublin – lagging the Greens on 18%.

In overall party preference – the one likely to be repeated in a general election - Fine Gael is at 26% nationally but 21% in Dublin – almost equal to the Greens on 20%.The first four seats in Dublin were filled by poll-topping Greens.

If the Green wave is unlikely to be replicated in the general election, then one place it could hold strong is in these parts of the capital.

Conversely some in Fianna Fáil are pointing to what could be a good showing for the party in Dublin’s north side and working-class areas of the capital – what were once traditional strongholds.

In Donaghmede, Fianna Fáil has tallied at 29% ahead of Fine Gael on 19% and Sinn Féin on 12%. In Ballymun Finglas, with three quarters of the ballot boxes tallied, Fianna Fáil is showing at 26% compared to 15% for Sinn Féin and a meagre 6% for Fine Gael.

In Artane-Whitehall, Fianna Fáil has tallied at 19%, behind 25% for Sinn Féin but well ahead of Fine Gael's 9%.  Are these tentative signs of a Fianna Fail recovery in the capital? 

Age profile 

A nugget of data in the small print of the RTE TG4 exit poll by Red C highlights a problem area for Fianna Fáil. 

The standing of its candidate in Midlands-North-West, Brendan Smith among 18-24 year olds is zero per cent. He is polling at 4% among 24-35 year olds and 3% among 35-44 year olds.

It rises to 12% for the over 65s.

The problem is the same elsewhere. In Dublin, Fianna Fáil’s Barry Andrews is at 12% overall. But his support among 18-24 year olds according to this exit poll is just two per cent. Billy Kelleher fares slightly better. Polling overall at 13%, this drops just 9% among 18-24 year olds. 

Its challenge is not one of geography, but of demographics.