Republic of Ireland news

Mary Lou McDonald: 'I may well be the next taoiseach'

Sinn Féin's president Mary Lou McDonald addresses the media in Dublin, as Sinn Féin's David Cullinane looks on. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire 

MARY Lou McDonald has predicted she could become the Republic's next leader.

The Sinn Féin president insisted she may lead a new government as taoiseach as her party basked in a remarkable general election result.

It topped the popular vote, shattering Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael's long time grip on power.

On an impromptu walkabout in Dublin city centre, Mrs McDonald said: "I may well be the next taoiseach, yes."

With all 160 seats filled as counting concluded overnight, Sinn Féin now hold 37 seats, one less than Fianna Fáil on 38. Outgoing taoiseach Leo Varadkar's Fine Gael now have 35 seats.

Although it received the most first preference votes, Sinn Féin's place in government is not guaranteed. It failed to run enough candidates to capitalise on its surging popularity.

Analysis: Where will Mary Lou's shoes take her next? (premium)

Fianna Fáil is on course to be the largest party though Sinn Féin could finish just a few seats behind in second.

Outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's Fine Gael is the big loser of the poll.

Mrs McDonald said no one should be presumptuous about who will be the next taoiseach.

"The more important thing at this juncture is what the new government will look like," she said.

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"We've consistently said in the course of this campaign that the best outcome to this election is a new government without Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael and so I have begun contact with the Greens, the Social Democrats, the Labour Party, with People Before Profit to establish whether we have the numbers and whether there will be the political will to deliver to create such a government."

She added: "I think it would be a mighty thing to have a Sinn Féin taoiseach and also a woman perhaps in the job but you might say she would say that wouldn't she?"

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