Fine Gael and Fianna Fail under pressure to forge alliance after indecisive poll
Ireland's political leaders are scrambling to find allies to form a new government after one of the most indecisive general election outcomes of recent times.
With just a clutch of seats to be decided, the two main political parties are coming under intense pressure to forge an unprecedented alliance as confusion reigns about the way forward.
A seismic split in the general election vote has thrust bitter enemies Fine Gael and Fianna Fail into a bout of soul-searching as to whether they can bury their age-old enmity to restore stability to the country.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to meet his party leadership while Fianna Fail chief Micheal Martin will open talks this week with his own stalwarts about their limited options.
Fractures have already opened within both parties, civil war-era adversaries who have swapped power for decades, about a widely-forecast "grand coalition".
Counting continues today, under Ireland's complex and lengthy proportional representation system, for a small number of final seats yet to be decided.
Recounts have also been ordered in a handful of constituencies.
Fine Gael looks set to be the largest party despite suffering humiliating losses after five years in power implementing austerity, taking a narrow lead over arch-rival Fianna Fail.
Outgoing junior coalition partner Labour has taken a drubbing with a number of its ministers being ejected, although party leader Joan Burton and deputy leader Alan Kelly won fights to retain their seats.
Ms Burton said she did not see her party in the next government.
Sinn Fein has further increased its vote south of the Irish border, making it the third largest.
The party said it would not prop up either of the two traditional parties.
With a large section of the electorate backing smaller parties and independents, the make-up of a new government remains in doubt, if an administration can be formed at all.
Among the battered coalition's biggest casualties were Fine Gael's deputy leader and former health minister James Reilly, the party's former justice minister Alan Shatter and Labour's communications minister Alan White.
Such is the uncertainty, senior political figures have talked openly about a new political system, citing continental European-style consensual arrangements or even a power-sharing executive similar to Northern Ireland.