What's the future like for Labour?

Joan Burton secured her seat but at the moment, she's joined by only five others

Joan Burton, GE16, Labour, abortion, referendum, repeal the 8th

Tánaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton speaks to the media

Joan Burton must have been devastated yesterday when she woke up to the exit polls from polling day. It seemed all the other polls throughout the campaign were right, Labour were facing decimation.

The Labour leader herself was lucky enough to keep her seat in Dublin West but other candidates around the country weren't so lucky.

At the moment, Alan Kelly is battling for his seat in Tipperary, Alex White lost his seat and Joe Costello was eliminated. The party's Minister of State Ann Phelan was taken out of the running in Carlow-Kilkenny.

Currently, depending on the Alan Kelly vote, the party are facing the possibility of not having speaking rights in the Dáil.

How far the party has fallen could be illustrated by the fact that they were on the government benches in 2011 but, depending on the Alan Kelly vote, they are now relegated to the second opposition party at best.

What went wrong?

As far back as 2011, initially, Labour made promises that were impossible to keep. With those promises, they successfully defended Fine Gael getting an overall majority. Those promises came back to haunt them.

On top of that, arguably changing their leader in 2014, has had no impact at all, not even a negative impact.

Throughout the campaign, the new leader, Joan Burton was lack lustre. She made a belated attempt to try and identify herself as a real leader in the debates and the result shows that strategy failed.

Annd then the promises... They aligned themselves too closely to Fine Gael and in the latter stages of the campaign, realised how much trouble they were in and started to make outrageous promises.

They had to row back on their childcare policies, thanks in part to the Newstalk Reality Check and their classroom size proposals seemed ridiculous seeing that the Minister for Education was one of their sitting TDs. They would never be able to reduce it from its orignal 27:1.

In terms of the their core party vote, this has traditionally been around the 10% mark. Every so often, like in 1992 and 2011, they would get a large chunk of middle class votes but at the following Election, that middle class floating vote deserts them. They find they have to appease the middle class vote and with that, they alienate themselves from the working class vote. 

What makes the matter worse for them is the fact that Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and other left Indepedents are taking their working class vote and they have a major job to try and recoup that. 

Over the life of the last government, two of the biggest controversies were water charges and property tax. The Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, didn't appear sympathetic to the difficulties it was causing people, particularly on the lower income ranges.

Joan Burton also cut the loan parents allowance, perhaps in a bid to get them back to work. This was the initial alienation with what was a core vote and they directly handed that issue to Sinn Fein and others to make use of.

What's the plan?

If Alan Kelly manages to keep his seat in Tipperary, he may challenge Joan for leadership of the party. However, the party runs by membership vote so he would have to be elected by all members and it's uncertain if that would happen.

Kelly himself has said it's too early to make any of those kind of decisions and that his party would reflect before they do anything else.

Like what Fianna Fáil managed to achieve over the last five years, Labour will return to their constituencies and try to build from the ground up.

However, that's a much more difficult process for a party with seven seats at the most. On top of that, they have just 51 Councillors across the country.

The cold, hard, truth is there are possibly 33 constituencies in the country with no Labour TD.

*Sue Murphy and Odran Flynn