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Irish general election: Exit poll predicts ‘tie’ between three main parties

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The three main political parties have tied in first preference votes, according to an exit poll for the Republic of Ireland's general election.

The earliest indications from the poll suggest there is little difference between Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil.

Polling closed in the general election at 22:00 GMT.

Counting to elect the 33rd Dáil (Irish parliament) will begin on Sunday in all 39 constituencies.

There will be coverage of the election results on the BBC News NI website from 12:00 GMT on Sunday.

The poll was commissioned jointly by RTÉ, The Irish Times, TG4 and UCD and included sampling of 5,000 respondents at 250 polling stations.

RTÉ says voting appears to have been "solid".

However, there is no expectation of a spike in voting compared to 2016 despite it being the first ever Saturday general election vote.

Factors that may have affected turnout include the poor weather and international rugby.

The exit poll indicates that Fine Gael secured 22.4% of first preference votes, closely followed by Sinn Féin (22.3%) and Fianna Fáil (22.2%).

It also suggests the Green Party secured 7.9% of first preference votes, followed by Labour (4.6%), Social Democrats (3.4%), Solidarity People Before Profit (2.8%).

Indications are that Independents took 11.2% of first preference votes.

The poll suggests a move toward Sinn Féin among younger voters, with the party receiving the largest number of first preference votes among 18-24 years olds (31.8%).

The majority of voters over the age of 65 appear to have given their first preference to Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil

There is a margin of error of 1.3% in either direction in the exit poll.

A total of 160 representatives will be returned to the Dáil and newly elected TDs will gather on 20 February .

The ceann comhairle, or speaker, is automatically re-elected.

In most situations, the speaker does not vote, so a government will need 80 TDs to hold a majority.

It is unlikely that any party will reach that number, so another coalition government is probable.

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