Tallies show Fianna Fáil close to overall majority

Bertie Ahern appeared to be on course for a third term as Taoiseach this afternoon.

Bertie Ahern appeared to be on course for a third term as Taoiseach this afternoon.

After several first count declarations, early tallies suggested Fianna Fáil could be a just handful of seats short of an overall majority.

Ministers Willie O'Dea and Noel Dempsey became the latest high profile Fianna Fáil candidates to be re-elected to the Dáil this afternoon as they were returned in Limerick East and Meath West respectively.

Education Minister Mary Hanafin was elected in Dun Laoghaire, while Sean O'Fearghail and Sean Power claimed two seats for the party in Kildare South and Mary Wallace was elected in Meath East.

Niall Collins claimed a seat for Fianna Fáil after the first count in Limerick West, Bobby Aylward and John McGuinness were voted into FF seats in Carlow Kilkenny, while Fianna Fáil won back its second seat in Dublin South as outgoing government Chief Whip Tom Kitt was elected on the third count.

FG's Jimmy Deenihan exceeded the quota in Kerry North, becoming his party's second candidate to be elected to the new Dáil, along with Brian Hayes of Dublin South West.

Transport Minister Martin Cullen was re-elected on the first count in his Waterford constituency

He will be joined in the 30th Dáil by party colleagues Brendan Smith - who exceeded the quota in Cavan Monaghan - and John Browne, who was elected in Wexford.

Caoimhmn O Caolain claimed the first Sinn Féin seat, while Pat Rabbitte, leader of the Labour party, became his party's first elected Dáil candidate when he was returned on the second count in Dublin South West.

Earlier, Fianna Fáil Junior Minister Conor Lenihan was elected on first count in the same constituency

FF's Aine Brady was one of the first candidates to be elected, in Kildare North, while two Fianna Fáil ministers were also amongst the first returnees.

Brian Lenihan was declared elected in Dublin West with nearly 3,000 votes over the quota, while Social and Family Affairs Minister Seamus Brennan topped the poll in his Dublin South constituency, receiving a quota and a third.

Earlier, John Curran of Fianna Fáil became the very first elected TD of the 30th Dáil.

The outgoing deputy retained his Dublin Mid West seat on the first count with 23% of first preference votes.

State of the parties: FF 19, FG 2, Lab 1, SF 1.

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