Irish presidential election: Michael D Higgins set to win

Michael D HigginsLabour Party candidate Michael D Higgins is set to become the ninth Irish president.

Mr Higgins received 701,101 first-preference votes – almost 40% of the total.Independent candidate and one-time favourite Sean Gallagher earlier admitted defeat to Mr Higgins.Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness is set to come third, while independents Dana Rosemary Scallon and Mary Davis were eliminated on the first count.A final declaration is due later tonight.Turnout was 56.1%, down from around 70% in the general election in February.Sean Gallagher received 504,964 first-preference votes, while Martin McGuinness received 243,030 votes.

Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell and the independent David Norris are battling for fourth place with 113,321 votes and 109,469 votes respectively.Dana Rosemary Scallon received 51,220 votes and Mary Davis 48,657 votes.The quota Mr Higgins has to reach is 885,882 votes.The 70-year-old lecturer and poet was an Irish MP for almost 25 years until he retired from the Dail earlier this year.e was Ireland’s minister for arts, culture and the Gaeltacht during the 1990s.The president, who serves as a ceremonial head of state, is elected for a seven-year term and can be re-elected only once.

Mr Gallagher, a former member and fund-raiser for the Fianna Fail party, called the veteran politician to congratulate him on his success.In a statement Mr Gallagher said: “He will have my full support as president and I sincerely thank him for a positive campaign.”His slogan stated that he would be a president to be proud of and I believe he will be that president.” Mr McGuinness also phoned Mr Higgins to offer his congratulations.”He will make a fine president and I wish him well for his seven years in the aras,” he said.

“I am delighted with the strong vote I have received. My message of positive leadership, patriotism and commitment clearly was resonating with tens of thousands of ordinary Irish people.”Other candidates in the election have also congratulated Mr Higgins.Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell said he would make “an excellent president,” while Dana Rosemary Scallon wished him a “happy and successful” time in office.

Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), Eamon Gilmore, congratulated his party colleague on his victory.Mr Gilmore admitted it had looked like Mr Gallagher was poised for victory, until a televised debate on RTE earlier this week.

He was forced to deny claims by Martin McGuinness that he had raised money for the Fianna Fail party when it was in government in 2008.”That certainly made a big impact, but I think it was Sean Gallagher’s response to the questions he was asked,” added Mr Gilmore.”I think there was a cumulative effect, which saw Sean Gallagher’s vote dropping and going to Michael D Higgins.

“The Irish opposition leader Micheal Martin of Fianna Fail also sent his congratulations to Mr Higgins.”I have known Michael D Higgins for many years and he will make an excellent president and ambassador for Ireland,” he said.Fianna Fail chose not to enter a candidate following the party’s heavy defeat in the general election. – BBC