Following the election, Kenny's Fine Gael with 50 of the 158 seats available remained the largest party in the Dáil despite having lost 26 seats. The main opposition party Fianna Fáil, which had suffered its worst-ever election result of 20 seats in 2011, increased its seats to 44. Sinn Féin was expected to make gains, encouraged by opinion polls placing it ahead of Fianna Fáil, and it became the third-most numerous party with 23 deputies. The Labour Party, which had been the junior party in coalition government with Fine Gael and which had returned its best-ever showing of 37 seats in 2011, fell to just seven deputies, its lowest-ever share of Dáil seats. Smaller parties and independent politicians made up the remaining 34 seats.
The members of the 32nd Dáil met on 10 March to elect a new Ceann Comhairle, the first to be elected by secret ballot, and Seán Ó Fearghaíl of Fianna Fáil was elected to succeed Seán Barrett of Fine Gael. Kenny formally resigned as Taoiseach that same day, but remained in office as a caretaker until a new government was formed. Kenny sought an agreement with Fianna Fáil to form a government, and negotiations continued through most of April. An agreement was finally reached for a Fine Gael-led minority government on 29 April, 63 days after the election, and the Dáil formally re-elected Kenny as Taoiseach on 6 May. Kenny is the first Taoiseach from Fine Gael to win re-election.
Following the introduction of gender quotas, a record 35 seats were filled by women, bringing the proportion of women in the Dáil to 22 percent, up from 15 percent after the previous general election.
Whereas the Constitution gives the Taoiseach authority to dissolve the Dáil, under electoral law the precise date of polling is specified by the Minister for the Environment, who was Alan Kelly of Labour. Electoral law required the 31st Dáil to be dissolved by 9 March 2016. Kenny rejected predictions in October 2015 that he would call an election in November to capitalise on rising Fine Gael support. In January 2016, media reported that Fine Gael and Labour respectively favoured Thursday 25 and Friday 26 February 2016 as the election date; Friday would facilitate voting by students registered to vote at their family home.
After a cabinet meeting on 2 February, Kenny announced that he would be seeking a dissolution the following day. At 09:30 on 3 February he formally told the Dáil this, and that the new Dáil would meet on 10 March; the Dáil was adjourned without statements from the opposition. At 09:58 while Kenny was en route to Áras an Uachtaráin to meet the President, the election date of 26 February was confirmed from his Twitter account. At 10:35 the President issued the proclamation dissolving the Dáil. Later that day, Minister Kelly signed the order setting the polling day. The writs of election are issued by the clerk of the Dáil.
New parties and alliances
A number of parties and political alliances were formed during the lifespan of the 31st Dáil in order to contest the election:
On 14 March 2014, the Independents for Equality Movement was registered as a political party by non-party TDs in advance of the 2014 local elections. Founded by Wexford TD Mick Wallace, it was renamed Independents 4 Change in October 2015. By the time the 31st Dáil was dissolved it counted among its members Wallace, Joan Collins, Clare Daly and Tommy Broughan, but all remained listed on the Dáil register as independent members of the house. All four members as well as one other councillor entered the election as Independents 4 Change candidates.
On 15 July 2015, the Social Democrats were founded by Róisín Shortall, elected to the 31st Dáil as a Labour Party TD; Catherine Murphy, who was also a member of the Labour Party until 2003 but was elected to the 31st Dáil as an independent non-party TD, and Stephen Donnelly who was elected to the 31st Dáil as an independent non-party TD. All three entered the election as co-leaders of the Social Democrats.
Part 6 of the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012 provides that parties will lose half of their state funding unless at least 30% of their candidates at the election are female and at least 30% are male. All parties except Direct Democracy Ireland fulfilled this condition. This contributed in part to the highest percentage of women elected to the Dáil; at 35 TDs, this was 22% of the 158 TDs, an increase from 15% at the previous general election.
The campaign officially began after the dissolution of Dáil Éireann on 3 February 2016 and lasted until polling day on 26 February 2016. During the campaign, official election posters are permitted in locations which would otherwise constitute litter; some candidates were reported to have illegally erected posters too soon. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland's moratorium on election coverage lasted from 14:00 on 25 February 2016 until polls had closed.
RTÉ set a minimum of three TDs for a party to be invited to its 15 February debate. The Green Party, which had no TDs (having lost them all in 2011), took an unsuccessful High Court case against the exclusion of its leader Eamon Ryan. An Irish language debate, moderated by Eimear Ní Chonaola was to be broadcast on TG4 on 17 February, but was cancelled due to the weak proficiency in that language of Adams and Burton. Aodhán Ó Ríordáin (Labour) and Pearse Doherty (Sinn Féin) were suggested as fluent replacements, but Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael insisted that a leaders' debate should be confined to party leaders only. TG4 instead broadcast successive one-to-one interviews with each party's representative. There was also a "live audience discussion" on RTÉ Two on 21 February featuring Timmy Dooley (FF), Mary Lou McDonald (SF), Aodhán Ó Ríordáin (Labour), Averil Power (non-party), Eamon Ryan (Greens), Leo Varadkar (FG), and Adrienne Wallace (AAA-PBP). The discussion was hosted by Keelin Shanley at Facebook's Dublin office and featured questions submitted via Facebook and Twitter. There was some controversy surrounding this debate as a representative of special needs parents said she was to appear to ask a question on waiting lists only to be told by RTÉ later that the topic would not be covered.
Polling results for the 2016 Irish general election, compared to the actual result
The party that received the most 1st preference votes (for all their candidates) in each constituency.
Counting of votes began at 09:00 UTC on Saturday 27 February 2016 and continued over the course of the weekend and into the following week, with the final two seats, in Longford–Westmeath, announced after multiple recounts at 05:30 UTC on Thursday 3 March.
It was Fine Gael's lowest number of seats since the 2002 general election, the election that led to Kenny becoming leader (the outgoing finance minister in 2016, Michael Noonan, had been Fine Gael's leader in 2002.) They performed especially poorly outside Dublin, dropping from 59 seats to 36; in Dublin the party fared better, going from 17 to 14 for a net loss of only three. Indeed, Fine Gael became the largest party in the capital for the first time since November 1982, and won seats in every constituency in Dublin for the first time since 1987. Fianna Fáil more than doubled the number of seats that they had coming into the election. Having been without representation in Dublin since the death of Brian Lenihan in 2011, Fianna Fáil managed to win six seats in the capital this time. Sinn Féin recorded their strongest showing under Adams to become the third party, making gains in Leinster and in urban areas of Munster, mostly at the expense of the Labour Party. Labour won their lowest vote share since 1987, and their lowest share of seats ever. Despite speculation that she would lose her seat, Joan Burton became the first sitting Tánaiste to avoid defeat at a general election since Mary Harney in 2002. Labour's vote collapse meant that not until the Longford–Westmeath result did they reach the seven-seat threshold to qualify as a parliamentary group with full speaking rights under current Dáil rules.
The combined vote of 49.8 per cent for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil was a record low for the two largest parties in the Dáil, eclipsing the previous record of 53.6 per cent set by Cumann na nGaedheal and Fianna Fáil in June 1927. It was the first time the vote for Ireland's two traditionally dominant parties had fallen below 50 per cent in a general election. Fine Gael became the largest party in the Dáil with just 25.5 per cent of the vote, the lowest percentage ever for a first party.
^The 19 seats for independents includes 6 seats for politicians participating in the Independent Alliance, which is not a political party, and 13 seats for other independents, but not the 4 seats for Independents 4 Change, which is a registered political party.
^TDs in the party at the 2016 dissolution of the 31st Dáil
^Change in number of seats from the 2011 election to the 2016 election
^Although not a new party (though a party with a new name since 2012), the Catholic Democrats fielded no candidates in 2011, so all their votes are counted as a gain. A different party, the Christian Solidarity Party, which was removed from the official register of political parties in 2014, got 2,102 votes in 2011 (out of a total vote of 2,220,359).
^Fís Nua got 938 votes in 2011 (out of a total vote of 2,220,359).
Enda Kenny immediately conceded that the outgoing coalition government of Fine Gael and Labour would be unable to continue. Fine Gael was 29 seats short of a majority, leading to speculation of a possibility of a grand coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, of a minority government, or of another general election later in 2016. Talks to form a government got underway in March.
On 29 April, after 63 days of negotiation and three failed votes for Taoiseach, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil reached an agreement about a Fine Gael minority government. In the days following, Fine Gael negotiated a deal with Independent TDs on the formation of a minority coalition. Enda Kenny was re-elected Taoiseach on 6 May 2016.
^Gerry Adams became President of Sinn Féin on 13 November 1983, but only became parliamentary leader of Sinn Féin in the Dáil once elected to the Dáil for the first time in February 2011. Prior to that its parliamentary leader in the Dáil since 1997 was Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.
^ abcAAA–PBP issued a joint "statement of common principles"; each of its two components issued a separate manifesto
^The Social Democrats were represented by one of their three TDs, who are interim co-leaders. The AAA–PBP have no leader and nominated Richard Boyd Barrett of PBP, one of their four TDs.
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