Gerry Adams has insisted Sinn Fein met its own expectations in the election, dismissing claims that he failed to lead his party to bigger targeted gains.
Set to return to the Dail with 20-plus seats, the veteran republican claimed the poll demonstrated a sea change in politics in the Republic.
"The message out there - and this is an ongoing process, this is very much a work in progress - is that people want change," he said.
"The big conservative parties that ran this place for a very long time can't summon between them any more than 50% of the vote.
"The left parties, the progressive parties, the independents, the Sinn Fein party, all have garnered the rest of all of that."
Despite its success, Sinn Fein looked set to suffer a high-profile casualty in Donegal where Padraig MacLochlainn appeared to have fallen short in his backyard of Inishowen and across the wider redrawn constituency.
In Kerry the veteran Martin Ferris was struggling in another recast constituency dominated by independent brothers Michael and Danny Healy Rae.
Mr Adams said his party did as well "as we could" as he took the second Dail seat for Louth and looked set to bring running mate Imelda Munster with him thanks to canny vote management in the constituency.