The Taoiseach has said the surge in support for the Green Party is a “very strong message to all of us in politics” that the public wants action on climate change.
Results are starting to come in from across the country after a long day of separating the ballots.
Exit polls suggest a big jump in support for The Green Party, with three of its European candidates in contention.
The party could also quadruple its number of seats on Dublin City Council.
Speaking at the Dublin count centre in Citywest this afternoon, Leo Varadkar said there is now “real public support” for climate action.
“I think obviously the Greens have had a very good election and I want to congratulate them on that in the first instance,” he said.
“I think it is a very clear message from the public that they want us to do more on climate action.
“It is going to require lots of changes at individual level, at community level and also at Government level as well in terms of policy.
“The public have said they are up for that, they want us to do it. We are acting on climate but they want us to do it faster and we have got that message.”
He said the result highlights the fact that “there is a big difference between opinion polls and elections” – and noted that mid-term elections are always difficult for governing parties.
“At the European elections, this time five years ago, we lost the popular vote,” he said.
“This time we have won it by a considerable margin – our vote is up in all three constituencies; we have three seats and we are challenging for a fourth or a fifth.
“On the locals, it is too early to say. We are still getting results in and it is going to go down to transfers.
“It does not look like we are making the kind of gains that we might have hoped for a few months ago but if we do increase our number of council seats – which we may well do – we will be the first party in Government to do so in 20 years and that is not a small thing.”
Counting of results in the local elections and the divorce referendum began at 9.00am.
The European election counts for Ireland's three constituencies will not start until Sunday morning.
A Europe-wide embargo means results cannot be declared until 10.00pm tomorrow night.