Irish voters have given overwhelming support for the re-election of the ruling party of Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. The election has also seen significant gains by Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army.

The Fianna Fail party has swept to a convincing victory, as Irish voters rallied behind the economic stewardship of Prime Minister Ahern.

As the final votes were counted Sunday, Mr. Ahern's Fianna Fail was falling just short of an outright majority in the 166-seat parliament.

Prime Minister Ahern says he will renew his coalition with the smaller Progressive Democrats, if he needs outside support to form a government.

Political analysts say voters have rewarded Mr. Ahern for the strong economic growth Ireland has enjoyed since he first took office five years ago.

The big loser in the election has been the Fine Gael party, which saw 20 of its incumbents defeated. Fine Gael leader Michael Noonan has said he will resign.

Meanwhile, the Sinn Fein party is celebrating its biggest-ever triumph in the Irish Republic. Sinn Fein has won at least five seats in parliament, compared with just one in the 1997 election.

Among the victorious Sinn Fein candidates is Martin Ferris, a convicted felon who once smuggled guns to the Irish Republican Army.

Sinn Fein now supports the peace process in the British province of Northern Ireland, and the IRA has started to disarm.

Sinn Fein chairman Mitchell McLaughlin says his party intends to become a political force on both sides of the Irish border.