Counting begins in Ireland's General Election

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Counting began on Saturday in Ireland's General Election with centre-right party Fine Gael expected to take power.

Voter turnout was reported to be one of the highest for many years with officials putting the figure in the region of 70 per cent.

Almost 3.2 million voters were registered to cast their ballots, with more than 550 candidates running in 43 constituencies for 165 of the 166 seats.

Opinion polls have put Fine Gael well in front to lead the next government securing as much as 40 per cent of the popular vote - potentially allowing for a single-party government propped up by independents.

A record number of independents have also joined the race to drive change in Irish politics.