By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith
A retiring Labour TD has admitted his party "will not be in the next government" due to its election 2016 meltdown, insisting the "onus" is on Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to form a stable coalition.
Outgoing Dublin Mid West TD Robert Dowds made the prediction at the City West Hotel count centre in Dublin today.
While no official count in the constituency has yet taken place, with 100% of boxes opened Labour's Joanna Tuffy TD is almost certain to lose her seat as she is trailing far behind the chasing pack for the last position in the area.
In a constituency which returned two Labour and two Fine Gael candidates in 2011, Sinn Féin's Eoin O Broin and Fine Gael's Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald are expected to be elected easily on the first count, followed by Fianna Fáil's John Curran and the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People before Profit's Gino Kenny.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Dowds said the predicted result is respective of the national situation, saying Labour will not be in the next government due to the meltdown and that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil must now form a coalition for the good of the country.
"I don't think Labour will be in the next government, that's for sure. I think we have to accept the verdict of the public," the outgoing Dáil public accounts committee member said.
"I don't know how many seats we have at this stage, but we have to re-group. As the two biggest parties are likely to be Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the onus will be on them to step up to the plate [and form a coalition]. I don't imagine Sinn Féin will be interested in stepping up to the plate," he said.
Asked how he felt about the past five years and the criticism his party is facing, Mr Dowds added:
"It's a difficult day for Labour, there's no doubt about that, but no matter the result I'm proud of our performance in this government. We worked extremely hard and extremely effectively on behalf of the country and the people, and we did our very best to protect people in very trying circumstances.
"To the day I die I will be proud of my role in this government. I make no apologies, there are one or two regrets, but I am very proud of our involvement and I think history will be very kind to the Labour party.
"Both this time and the last time Labour were in government we left the country in a very good place, in this instance in a recovering place.
"I just hope it's not all squandered now," he said.
In the same constituency, Sinn Féin's Eoin O Broin said he believes Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil may join together in a coalition because "there isn't a hair's breath between them, and we all know that".
However, despite a widespread belief such a coalition would be in Sinn Féin's medium term political interests, as it would mean it is the main opposition going into the next election, Mr O Broin claimed nothing was further from the party's mind.
"Whether they go into government or not, it's my least preferred option. It's very bad for the country.
"It won't be good news for the people we represent, which is far more important. Having said that, I can see no ideological or policy reason why not [a Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil coalition]," he said.