Several big names in politics are facing a Portillo moment as the election count continues this evening, writes Michael Clifford.
The sudden departure of well known politicians in the course of an election count has come to be known as a Portillo moment after the shock loss of a seat for former Tony party minister Michael Portillo in the 1997 UK general election.
The most high profile departure looking likely this evening is that of Regina Doherty, the minister for Social Protection who is a close ally of Leo Varadkar.
Fine Gael was always going to have a battle to hang onto the two seats in Meath East that it won in 2016 with Doherty and junior Minister for European Affairs, Helen McEntee.
Geography was against Doherty and she garnered just over 10% in the first count. The poll topper in the constituency was, as elsewhere, the Sinn Fein candidate, in this case Darren O’Rourke. Doherty came in fourth behind O’Rourke, McEntee and outgoing Fianna Fail TD Thomas Byrne, all of whom are poised to be re-elected.
Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport Shane Ross fell on the fifth count, with just 3,419 first preference votes.
Cavassers across rural Ireland had reported back that the former journalist and stockbroker was a deeply unpopular figure on the doorsteps, but it was thought that he was safe in his own constituency of Dublin Rathdown.
He made major play of delivering the re-opening of the Stepaside Garda Station in the heart of the constituency. Ross also managed to get his fellow Independent Alliance members, Fintan McGrath and John Halligan to put the shoulder to the wheel in his canvas. Notwithstanding that, he came in sixth on the first count.
Although "not surprised", he said he was disappointed.
"It's a very volatile constituency and I was taking nothing for granted. I'm not totally surprised. Of course I'm disappointed, but that's politics."
Another independent minister on the way out is Minister for Children Katherine Zappone in Dublin South West.
She came in sixth in the first count for the five seat constituency, in which Sinn Fein’s Sean Crowe topped the poll with 20,007 first preference votes.
Former Tanaiste Joan Burton was always under pressure to retain her seat in Dublin West. The extent of her political demise became apparent when she secured just 5% of the first preference vote as Sinn Fein’s Paul Donnolly topped the poll on 28% to be elected to the Dail for the first time.
Burton had a relatively low profile in the last Dail after she resigned the party leadership following the rout of Labour in the 2016 election. Some observers were surprised that she had contested this election. She was first elected to the Dail in 2002.
Burton’s Labour party colleague Jan O’Sullivan also looked last night as if her time in elected national politics was coming to an end. She came in sixth in the first count for the Limerick city constituency where outgoing Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinliven topped the poll.
Other high profile TDs under threat include Fianna Fail’s front bench spokesperson on health, Stephen Donnolly and the spokesperson on Brexit, Lisa Chambers.
Donnolly had in 2011 been elected as an independent and in 2016 he ran under the Social Democrats banner before joining Fianna Fail in the last Dail.
In Dublin North West, Noel Rock conceded early on after he was fourth in the first count for the three seater will little prospect of getting over the line on transfers. Here again, the polltopper was the Sinn Fein candidate, Dessie Ellis, who was elected on the first count.
In Wexford, two junior ministers Michael Darcy and Paul Kehoe were left fighting for the last seat in a constituency where Johnny Mythen topped the poll.