By Daniel McConnell and Fiachra Ó Cionnaith
The Green party is in contention to win a shock three MEP seats in Ireland's European elections after an official exit poll said its three candidates are all on course for Brussels success.
* Gs could win three
* FF may win two in South, but none in Mid NW & Dub
* FG will top South & Mid NW, but Deirdre Clune is in trouble & Frances Fitz did not do as well as believed
* Of MEPs, Clune (FG, South), Ming (Ind, Mid NW) & Boylan (SF, Dub) are at risk #ee19— Fiachra Ó Cionnaith (@Ocionnaith) May 24, 2019
An official RTE-TG4-Red C exit poll of more than 3,000 people nationwide and published moments after the polls closed at 10pm tonight made the claim in what could prove to be a watershed moment for the country.
The poll was split into three separate constituencies - Ireland South, Midlands North West and Dublin - in order to capture the likely results to be confirmed over the weekend.
The poll states:
* The Greens are likely to top the first preference poll in Dublin with Ciaran Cuffe on 23%; be fourth of five seats on first preferences in Ireland South with Grace O'Sullivan on 12%; and be placed third of four seats in Midlands North West with Saoirse McHugh on 12%
* In Ireland South, Fine Gael's Sean Kelly is expected to top the poll on 16% followed by Sinn Féin's Liadh Ni Riada and Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher on 13% each, Ms O'Sullivan on 12%
RTÉ-TG4 Red C exit poll, Ireland South
Kelly (FG) 16
Ní Riada (SF) 13
Kelleher (FF) 13
O'Sullivan (GP) 12
M Wallace (I4C) 10
Byrne (FF) 9
Clune (FG) 9
Doyle (FG) 4May 24, 2019
* In Ireland South, Fine Gael's other sitting constituency MEP Deirdre Clune is at risk of losing her seat, with her 9% of exit poll first preferences putting her in a battle for the final seat with Independents4Change Mick Wallace (10%) and Fianna Fáil's Malcolm Byrne (9%)
* In Midlands North West, Fine Gael's Mairead McGuinness is likely to storm home on 23%, followed by Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy on 15%, with Ms McHugh (12%), Independent Luke Ming Flanagan (10%), Fine Gael's Maria Walsh (10%), Independent Peter Casey (7%) and Fianna Fáil's Brendan Smith (6%) fighting for the fourth and final seat
RTÉ-TG4 Red C exit poll, Midlands North West
McGuinness (FG) 23
Carthy (SF) 15
McHugh (GP) 12
Flanagan (Ind) 10
Walsh (FG) 10
Casey (Ind) 7
Smith (FF) 6
Rabbitte (FF) 3May 24, 2019
* and in Dublin, the Greens Ciaran Cuffe is expected to be the shock first preference poll topper on 23%, followed by Fine Gael's Frances Fitzgerald (14%), with Fianna Fáil's Barry Andrews (12%), Independents4Change Clare Daly (12%), Sinn Féin's Lynn Boylan (10%) and potentially the Social Democrats Gary Gannon (6%) all in contention for the third and fourth seats
RTE-TG4-Red C exit poll, Dublin:
Cuffe (G) 23
Fitzgerald (FG) 14
Andrews (FF) 12
Daly (I4C) 12
Boylan (SF) 10
Gannon (Soc Dems) 6
White (Lab) 5
Durkan (FG) 5May 24, 2019
The exit poll has a margin of error of 4% for the European elections.
In the local elections, it looks like a tight battle to establish whether Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil will come out in top spot, after the poll puts both parties neck-and-neck on 23%.
Both parties are keen to hold the mantle of largest party at local level, which went to Fianna Fáil in 2014, when it won 267 seats compared to 235 for Fine Gael.
However, this poll suggests the party’s first preference support is level with Fine Gael this time.
Also, on the wider political issue:
* FG and FF are tied on 23%, do not expect a rumoured June or autumn election to happen based on those numbers (don't believe the hype, basically)
* Spring 2020 may be more likelyMay 24, 2019
Both parties seem to have dropped support and, were the numbers to materialise, the figure is some way off what Fine Gael would need to win the 50 extra council seats it predicted just a few weeks ago.
Again, the big winners are the Greens, which could hit the 9% mark.
While it was a fine day, lengthy ballot papers led to delays at polling stations around the country when people were placing completed ballots into boxes at polling stations.
With 23 candidates standing in Ireland South, voters have had to deal with 2ft-long ballot paper which had to be folded multiple times before being posted into the slots on ballot boxes.
It was reported, too, that many voters simply refused to accept the ballot papers relating in Cork, Waterford, and Limerick relating to creating directly elected mayors in the cities, because of their lack of understanding of the proposal.
In Dublin, by 9pm, the average vote across the city was just 31%, well down on previous recent votes. While over 50% of voters in Templeogue and 40% of voters in Clontarf had exercised their franchise, turnout was just 14% in Finglas and 17% in Tallaght.
The country has made a near unanimous decision to liberalise the divorce laws and allow couples to divorce after two years of living apart in a groundbreaking referendum result.
The exit poll on the referendum said 87% of people voted for the changes compared to just 12% who were opposed.
In a referendum pushed by Culture Minister Josepha Madigan, the public was asked to vote on whether it wanted to allow couples to divorce after two years of living apart, and whether to recognise foreign divorces.
While Ms Madigan warned on Wednesday the public must not take the referendum result for "granted", almost nine out of every 10 voters - according to the exit poll - appear to have backed it, with an 87-12% result predicted.
The exit poll is a likely predictor of the actual referendum result, expected to be formally announced on Saturday afternoon, and has a likely 2% margin of error.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael confirmed it complained to gardaí about alleged electoral fraud in the local elections in Co. Sligo.
This followed a surge in the number of postal votes registered in one area.
The number registered in the Ballymote-Tubbercurry electoral area as being entitled to a postal vote due to illness or disability has almost doubled since the last local elections.
Sligo County Council confirmed that 252 postal votes for “physical illness or disability” have been registered in the Ballymote-Tubbercurry electoral area — up from 131 in 2014 and 159 in 2009.