Fine Gael candidate Helen McEntee looks on track to win the Dáil seat once held by her late father in Meath East.
The latest tallies indicate Fine Gael has 39.34% of the vote in the by-election, with Fianna Fáil’s Thomas Byrne in second place with 33.26%.
With about 90% of the ballot boxes open, junior coalition partner Labour was left trailing well behind, gaining fewer votes than both Sinn Féin and the Direct Democracy Ireland (DDI) candidate.
Sinn Féin's man Darren O’Rourke had around 1248% of the votes, DDI’s Ben Gilroy a respectable 8%, leaving Labour’s Eoin Holmes lagging behind with 4.3%.
Commentators had expected a close run race between Ms McEntee, daughter of late junior minister Shane who died before Christmas, and a Fianna Fáil showing strong signs of resurgence in the opinion polls.
Eleven candidates ran in the by-election, including a number of independents.
Another tally is expected shortly at the count centre in Ashbourne.
When polls closed last night, turnout was estimated to have been very poor with less than a third of the electorate coming out to vote.
Some have blamed the wintry weather for the low numbers, while a general lack of interest during the campaign may also have been a factor.