Ireland's next leader Enda Kenny vows bailout review

Ireland's new leader, Fine Gael's Enda Kenny, has said the country is on "brink of fundamental change"

Ireland's incoming leader has promised to work to renegotiate the country's crippling 85bn euro bail-out next week.

Enda Kenny of Fine Gael said he would fight for a cheaper loan deal from the International Monetary Fund and Europe.

His party is now the largest in the 31st Irish parliament, the Dail.

Counting is continuing in four remaining constituencies, with 13 seats in the new Dail (parliament) still to be filled.

A recount in Wicklow has been adjourned until Monday.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has won 13 seats so far in the Irish general election, a gain of eight on its representation in the last Dail.

Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein have all won record numbers of seats but FG's rivals Fianna Fail suffered a crushing defeat. Mr Kenny said it was "a democratic revolution at the ballot box".

Votes are still being counted but Fine Gael is expected to be the largest party in the Republic's parliament, without having an overall majority.

Final numbers for the Dail parliament will not be decided until late on Sunday.

Mr Kenny plans to start fighting for a cheaper loan deal on 4 March when the European People's Party, to which Fine Gael is affiliated, meets in Helsinki. He will follow that up at the European Council in Brussels the following week.New Irish leader in bailout vow

Mr Kenny said the IMF/EU bail-out was "a bad deal for Ireland and a bad deal for Europe".

"We are not going to cry the poor mouth, other than to say the reality of this challenge is too much. I don't want to talk about difficulties, I look for co-operation, consensus and support across Europe," he said.

"We want to restore our pride at home and abroad. Our country is back in business."

Analysis

Dublin is buzzing with speculation about a visit to Ireland by US President Barack Obama at the end of May.

The possible trip is likely to be discussed next month when Mr Kenny goes to Washington for the annual St Patrick's Day celebrations at the White House.

President Obama has distant Irish roots in the village of Moneygall in County Offaly.

If the president does go to Ireland, it may not be the only high-profile visit to Dublin this year.

The Queen may visit the Irish Republic for the first time, in a sign of how Anglo-Irish relations have been transformed by the peace process.

The incoming taoiseach also pledged to probe deep into the heart of the Irish banking crisis which has left the taxpayer saddled with crippling debts which some analysts believe could ultimately cost closer to 200bn euros.

"We do need to find exactly what went wrong here, who benefited from this and where decisions were made," he said.

"This is bridging the gap between government and people - that chasm there was very bad for democracy."

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny is weighing up options for a new government with his centre-right party Fine Gael on course to form a coalition with Labour, or a collection of independents if the numbers stack up.

He launched a fierce attack on the outgoing government, led by Fianna Fail, over its poor communications and lack of openness.

"I give you my guarantee that the incoming government is not going to leave the people in the dark about what is happening whether it is good or whether it is bad," he said.

Mr Kenny, who secured the biggest single vote in the country in his Mayo constituency, said he wanted a quick resolution to talks on a new government.

Fine Gael is on course for 75 plus Dail seats, just a handful shy of majority single party government in the 166 strong Dail.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin put on a brave face and said he believed that Fine Gael had managed to secure support from floating voters.

"There's a soft vote there for Fine Gael and Labour, just as there was for us for years," he said.

The party's biggest casualty was Mary Coughlan, the outgoing deputy prime minister, who was punished by voters in Donegal South-West as they opted to support an independent candidate in her own backyard.

Hers was one of several dynasties brought to a dramatic end.

"It's been a very difficult day for all of my colleagues, many of whom have lost their seats," she said.

Other big names to suffer included ministers Mary Hanafin, Barry Andrews and Conor Lenihan, himself from a powerful Fianna Fail family and brother of the outgoing finance minister Brian Lenihan who narrowly retained his own seat.

The Haughey name will also be absent from the Dail for the first time in 54 years after Fianna Fail's Sean Haughey lost his seat.

The Greens - former coalition partners - were wiped out. None of their TDs - two of whom held Cabinet posts up until a few weeks ago - were brought back to the Dail.

Leader John Gormley had always faced a tough battle in Dublin South East and blamed his failure on being in a government which made savage cuts.

"We have suffered a major defeat, but the party will regroup, we will continue. We're a party with a set of beliefs and values and a vision for the future. We have great people here. We're going to rebuild this party," he said.

Labour had one of its best ever performances with the prospect of supporting a coalition.

"That is the most likely outcome, there's no doubt about that," leader Eamon Gilmore said.

Fianna Fail have paid the political price for the EU/IMF bail-out

Sinn Fein has more than doubled its seats in the Dail with party president Gerry Adams topping the poll in Louth after giving up his Westminster seat for West Belfast.

Mr Adams said his party was on course for major gains: "I think the votes across the state show a significant amount of people support the position we have taken up."

Their success in the Republic of Ireland was extended with seats right around the border including two TDs in Donegal.

Further left wing appeal came from the United Left Alliance - a loose collection of the Socialist Party and the self-styled People Before Profit.

It will take two days to complete the official count.

Many parts of the country saw a big increase in turnout on the 67% recorded in the last general election in 2007.

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