Defeat for Ireland's main political parties as votes are counted

Taoiseach Enda Kenny insists he will not resign in the wake of the election Credit: Reuters

Ireland's political future has been plunged into deep disarray after voters dealt the traditionally dominant parties an unprecedented hammering.

With the outgoing Fine Gael-Labour partnership staring at defeat, the Republic faces weeks of protracted negotiations on potential coalitions.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has ruled out resigning

Early indications suggest a widespread disaffection with mainstream parties and austerity - similar to movements across Europe, including Spain, Portugal and Greece, where parliaments have been crippled by the voter schism.

It now appears that political powerhouses Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are struggling to secure support of 50% of the electorate for the first time in history.

With more than ten seats out of 158 declared, Fianna Fail's Micheal Martin, the opposition leader in the last Dail parliament, insisted the focus was not entirely on bringing an end to 90-odd years of civil war politics by taking power with Fine Gael.

Meanwhile Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said he had "divided thoughts" on a potential Fine Gael-Fianna Fail coalition

This evening, Mr Kerry said: "It is a position that one never likes to be in but I want to make it clear that I expect that the Fine Gael party will be a large bloc in the next Oireachtas (parliament).

"From that point of view, my responsibility as Taoiseach is to work to see that our country has a stable government and that has a government that can continue the progress that we have made over the last number of years in bringing the benefits of a recovering economy to all our people."

However Mr Kenny, who had a 30-seat majority after the 2011 election, admitted the election result was disappointing.

"Democracy is always exciting but it is merciless when it clicks in," he added.