Big names could fall as Fianna Fail face opposition
The officer class knew before they went to bed but Fianna Fail's footsoldiers will have heard the grim news on RTE's eight o'clock bulletin this morning.
An exit poll projected how many seats they were expected to lose, which cabinet ministers could survive, and what counties would not have a Fianna Fail TD.
But it didn't forecast the most senior household name that would become a symbol of the party's epic fall from grace – the one who would later be stripped of their seat on live television.
It could be Tanaiste Mary Coughlan, Brian Lenihan or Mary Hanafin — don't rule out any of the outgoing cabinet ministers.
Micheal Martin is the safest bet to hold his seat but as the day goes on it will become clear why five cabinet ministers, including the Taoiseach, and 21 TDs, did not run for re-election.
The exit poll and a high voter turnout will leave party members in Kerry, Tipperary North and South, Roscommon, Wicklow and Donegal wondering if their county will have an FF TD.
It looks bleak on the east coast where Seamus Kirk, the outgoing Ceann Comhairle who is automatically returned in Louth, is the only certainty. Voters in Dublin have to decide how many of the 19 outgoing Fianna Fail TDs will be returned and the most optimistic speculation suggests three — but none on a really bad day.
Over the next couple of days they will occasionally buck the trend and snatch the last seat but such wins will only offer a crumb of comfort to a few individuals.
Statisticians have computed the magnitude of their losses on radio before breakfast but Fianna Failers have to deal with the consequences of their failure over the coming days, months even years.
Grief counselling will be the only sunshine industry for a party that has been eviscerated and debased. Coming to terms with the sheer scale of the humiliation will take a lot longer than the counting of votes and that could drag on for another two days.
At every election count in living memory, Fianna Fail was the slickest organisation, the first to celebrate, and the last to go home from the pub.
The party has dominated Irish political life for three generations and been in government for 61 of the past 79 years.
All that will change over the coming days and weeks as they learn to deal with being significantly smaller than the Labour Party and in competition with Sinn Fein in opposition.