The Latest: Ireland's house divided as election results grow

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Posted: Feb 28, 2016 2:33 PM
The Latest: Ireland's house divided as election results grow

DUBLIN (AP) — The Latest on Ireland's election results (all times local):

7:25 p.m.

Winners have been declared for 137 seats in Ireland's 158-member parliament — and the legislature has never looked so divided.

Among the traditional big-name parties, Fine Gael has won 44 seats, Fianna Fail 38, Sinn Fein 20 and Labour six. In addition, 29 mostly left-wing candidates from a half-dozen factions, all hostile to establishment parties, also have won seats.

Winners of the final 23 seats are expected to be announced later Sunday night and Monday.

The results raise the question of whether the country's next government should be a historic alliance of age-old foes — or whether there should be a second election. Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have never shared power in the 94 years since Ireland won independence from Britain. But neither side has ruled out forming a partnership if government stability requires it.

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6:15 p.m.

Deputy Prime Minister Joan Burton, whose Labour Party has suffered its worst-ever defeat, says her party's surviving lawmakers will vote in favor of keeping Enda Kenny as Ireland's prime minister when parliament convenes March 10. But she anticipates lawmakers may fail to form a new government and her 5-year-old coalition with Kenny's Fine Gael party will continue indefinitely in a caretaker capacity.

Burton is just one of six Labour lawmakers to have won re-election in Friday's election, with more than two dozen others already confirmed as losers as results continued to be tabulated Sunday.

Labour won an unprecedented 37 parliamentary seats in 2011. But voters this time punished the left-wing party for helping to impose three years of austerity, including new property and water taxes.

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2:50 p.m.

Throughout Ireland's three-week election campaign, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams faced questioning over his own Irish Republican Army past and his support for the outlawed group's one-time chief of staff, Thomas "Slab" Murphy.

Murphy, one of the movement's most shadowy and feared figures, was sentenced Friday — election day — to 18 months in prison for tax evasion. Adams, who won re-election Sunday as a lawmaker in the border district that includes Murphy's farm, said scrutiny of Sinn Fein's IRA links had harmed the party's results in the vote.

Adams says "the ongoing tsunami of negativity from the other parties and from sections of the media clearly did have its effect."

He also suggested the media was disrepecting Murphy by using his nickname. He says "Tom Murphy's name is not Slab. Just for the record, his name is Tom."

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12.30 p.m.

In Irish politics, it's often all in the family. There's no more beloved example than the Healy-Rae dynasty of County Kerry, where two brothers have just scored the most lopsided wins of the 2016 election.

Michael and Danny Healy-Rae received the highest margins yet recorded anywhere in Ireland's 40 districts, topping the poll and taking the first two of the county's five parliament seats. Their father, Jackie, died in 2014 after representing Kerry as a maverick independent since 1997.

The sons maintain their father's agenda of seeking special deals for Kerry, particularly better roads, and opposition to enforcing tougher drunk-driving standards on them. Danny runs the Healy-Rae Bar in the Kerry village of Kilgarvan.

Irish broadcasters RTE speculated that, had they recruited another brother or sister, the Healy-Raes could easily have won a third Kerry seat.

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11:15 a.m.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has fueled speculation that the outcome of Friday's election could lead to a second election later this year to try to break a looming political deadlock.

Ireland hasn't experienced rapid-fire elections amid a finely balanced parliament since 1982.

But Noonan — the most powerful figure in the 5-year-old coalition government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny — thinks that the results still being announced Sunday point to a possible hung parliament.

"We may all be back here again very shortly," Noonan said, speaking inside an election count center.

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11 a.m.

Ireland's people are expressing widespread apprehension that a possible combination of the country's parties of perpetual opposition, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, could work together for the good of the nation.

That skeptical mood was summed up by Sunday's editorial cartoon in the Irish Independent. In it, a reporter asks the Fine Gael and Fianna Fail leaders: "What next?"

Prime Minister Enda Kenny replies: "Stable chaos." Micheal Martin counters: "Chaotic stability.'"

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10:30 a.m.

A marathon election count has resumed to determine the balance of power in Ireland's next parliament, with a historic alliance between two age-old foes a potential outcome.

With nearly two-thirds of parliamentary seats filled from Friday's election, the two perennial heavyweights of Irish politics — governing Fine Gael and opposition Fianna Fail — remain neck and neck with 28 seats each.

Electoral officials expect nearly all winners in Ireland's 158-member parliament to be declared by Sunday night.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have never shared power in the 94 years since Ireland won independence from Britain. But neither side has ruled out forming a partnership if government stability requires this in Ireland's increasingly fractured political landscape.

The new parliament is scheduled to convene March 10 to elect a prime minister.