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Irish voters boosted the country’s centrist government during this week’s local and European Parliament elections, dealing a blow to the opposition Sinn Féin, while also electing a handful of far-right candidates, the Guardian reported.

The ruling coalition, made up of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, performed better than expected: Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil each secured 23 percent of the local election first-preference votes, while the Greens garnered 3.6 percent. The outcome defied previous opinion polls that hinted at heavy losses for the coalition because of Ireland’s severe housing crisis.

Fine Gael credited its success partly to the fresh leadership of Prime Minister Simon Harris, who replaced Leo Varadkar in April. Harris has introduced stricter asylum policies, which may have resonated with voters amid growing concerns about immigration. Despite calls for an early election, Harris and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin have agreed to focus on the upcoming autumn budget.

In the European elections, preliminary results suggested Ireland, like other European countries, has shored up pro-EU mainstream parties. While the final tallies are not expected until Wednesday, it remains unclear if any candidates running on an “Ireland for the Irish” platform will win a European Parliament seat.

The polls were overshadowed by rising public concern over immigration, with observers noting the country has experienced a surge in anti-migrant sentiment and protests.

However, only a few anti-migrant candidates won seats on county and city councils. Hermann Kelly, leader of the Eurosceptic Irish Freedom Party, celebrated the election of Glen Moore in west Dublin as the party’s first official.

Meanwhile, the polls were particularly disastrous for the main opposition party, Sinn Féin, which won around 12 percent of the first preference local election votes, a stark contrast from the opinion poll predictions of 30 percent, Politico wrote.

Sinn Féin’s failure came amid criticism that the party did not take a tougher stance on immigration. The left-wing group also was blamed for Ireland’s ongoing housing crisis – even though it was not in government – according to its leader, Mary Lou McDonald.

McDonald acknowledged voter frustration and emphasized that Sinn Féin remains a strong opposition force, but observers noted that the party’s lackluster performance has raised questions about its strategy and leadership ahead of the general election, which must occur by March 2025.

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