SINN Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has heralded a transformation in the Republic’s political landscape after her party made unprecedented gains that could potentially see it become a key player in Dublin’s next government.

Counting in the Dáil election will continue today but a picture had emerged last night of a new three-party system with Sinn Féin on an equal footing with its establishment rivals Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

With all first preference votes counted last night, Sinn Féin came out on top with 24.5 per cent of the vote, ahead of Fianna Fáil on 22.2 per cent and Fine Gael on 20.9 per cent.

In London, Downing Street said the UK’s close relationship with Ireland would continue regardless of the outcome of the election which has seen Sinn Fein emerge as the most popular party in the country.

“We are of course following the results of the Irish election carefully,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“The UK and Ireland are close neighbours and friends and we look forward to continuing to work together.”

The spokesman added: “The close relationship between the UK and Ireland will continue regardless of the election result.”

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Irish News