Irish presidential election: Michael D Higgins elected

 

Michael D Higgins gives his acceptance speech after being officially confirmed as the ninth Irish president.

The Labour Party's Michael D Higgins has been officially confirmed as the ninth Irish president after one of the most remarkable comebacks in the state's history.

The poet and campaigner received 701,101 first-preference votes - almost 40% of the total.

His victory over one-time favourite Sean Gallagher was evident within an hour of the ballot boxes being opened.

A welcome home ceremony will be held in his native Galway on Sunday.

It will take place at an open air event in Eyre Square at around 16:30 GMT.

Mr Higgins was elected on the fourth count with 1,007,104 votes.

Mr Gallagher received 628,114 votes.

Mr Higgins hosted a reception at the Mansion House in Dublin on Saturday night for members of his campaign team and paid tribute to them for the huge effort they had made during the election.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Higgins said he wanted to be a president for all the people.

He said Irish people had to work together to tackle their shared problems.

"We must now work to our strengths at home and abroad, not only cooperatively and collectively but sustainably for the benefit of all of our present generations and those to come," he said.

"The necessary transformation of which I speak and of which my presidency will be a part is built on turning creative possibilities into living realities for all our people."

He also announced that from "this moment" he would cease to be a member and president of the Irish Labour party.

'Transformation'

"The presidency is an independent office and the Irish people whom I appreciate so much and I take with such responsibility have given a very clear mandate on a very clear set of ideas to me, as the ninth president," he said.

Speaking on Friday night, Mr Higgins said his seven-year term would be marked by inclusion, ideas and transformation.

"I'm very, very happy. It is something I prepared for, something I thought about for a long while," he said.

"I am very glad as well that it is a presidency built on a campaign that emphasised ideas. I hope it will be a presidency that will enable everybody to be part of and proud of."

Mr Higgins will be inaugurated on Armistice Day, 11 November, the day after current president Mary McAleese leaves office.

At the end of the third count on Saturday, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and Gay Mitchell of Fine Gael, were both excluded. Mr McGuinness had 265,196 votes and Mr Mitchell was on 136,309.

The quota Mr Higgins had to reach was 885,882 votes.

Mr Gallagher received 504,964 first-preference votes, while Mr McGuinness, Sinn Fein, came in third with 243,030 votes.

Independents Dana Rosemary Scallon and Mary Davis were eliminated on the first count. Dana Rosemary Scallon received 51,220 votes and Mary Davis 48,657 votes.

Analysis

In the end the Irish people decided they had had enough of living dangerously.

After three years of political and financial turmoil, they chose the archetypal safe pair of hands - modest Michael D Higgins - to be their president.

They were not ready for ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness, and not convinced by former Dragon's Den star Sean Gallagher.

They were deemed too risky. In Higgins, they trusted.

As one voter put it: "Michael is a statesman. His idea of danger is having an After Eight at 7.45."

On the second count independent David Norris was excluded. He received 113,321 votes which were then redistributed.

Defeat

Mr Higgins seized an unprecedented swing in support earlier this week after his biggest rival, independent candidate Mr Gallagher, was publicly derailed by Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness on live television.

Mr Gallagher, the opinion poll topper with a 15-point margin as recently as Sunday, saw his support vanish to 28% in a stunning defeat blamed on his links to Fianna Fail, the party most associated with Ireland's economic demise.

Mr Higgins was an Irish MP for almost 25 years until he retired from the Dail earlier this year. He 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.

Congratulations

The poet and campaigner received 701,101 first-preference votes - almost 40% of the total.

"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 (presidential home)," 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.

Mr Gallagher was forced to deny claims by Mr 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.

 

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  • Comment number 106.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 105.

    I believe the Republic uses full PR-STV rather than just AV, which means they have true PR. I think this is also true assembly elections here in the North and for Scottish and Welsh parliaments...

  • rate this
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    Comment number 104.

    This election might be of interest in the UK as an election conducted under the AV system. Mind you, Ireland wasn't in the list of two countries using AV mentioned by the 'no' campaign back in May. Dishonest campaigning?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 103.

    chris911t. What's all this about 'mainland' Britain? Ireland is not part of Britain, particularly the Republic part of our country. Please apologise for sullying our good name!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 102.

    55.LukusMaximus - It came out long befor he was even nominated for the presedential campaing, are you totally clueless on political issues or did you post this as some attempt at a wind up?

    McGuinness did not use any dirty tactics, in fact from all the telvised debates he was the one who had to withstand them, SF are not troublemakers and without them and McG there would be no peace in NI. Fact.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 101.

    to 87.happytravelling - sad to see McGuinness do so well? Why so? Surely as it was a democratic race the people who voted for him were merely exercising their right to vote for the person they so wished.

    People's attitude towards McGuinness is disgraceful, he showed courage and guts. Unlike Gay Mitchell who fought a dirty campaing and is being punisher for it, fitting for 'Fine Gall(sic)'

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 100.

    Congratulations to Michael D. HIggins, lecturer and poet, as stated occupation on the ballot paper, an exceptional person in every respect, who has, at 70, attained a platform to help raise the spirits of a nation recovering from a hysterical property bubble whose bank debt falls upon the people. Michael D. will inspire the best qualities of the Irish people in 7 years of creative renewal.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 99.

    Why do people add comments like "...and we're interested in in this because?"?

    Clearly there are many pages of comment so people are interested. Perhaps the answer to the question is: We are interested in this because it is relatively important... You may not be interested. If you are not, pop off and read about something that interests you.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 98.

    I had the privilege of voting for Michael D. yesterday and I'm positive that he will do a wonderful job as the international face of Ireland. By far the best candidate. Articulate, proud, passionate, genuine, inclusive, well-read and softly-spoken, a real champion for righteous causes. I'd encourage everyone to check out some of his recent speeches on YouTube.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 97.

    93. tomred86

    . . . because of all the globally significant issues currently in the news, the election of a non-executive president of another country is probably not a topic for the British Broadcasting Corporation to choose for HYS

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 96.

    95.tomred86
    Given the role, Elder statesman is what is a safe bet. As an impartial observer the top two seemed the best choices, although I have to say I haven't followed it closely. Its a good choice and its good to see Ireland coming back from (near) disaster strongly. Must be interesting looking at events on the continent from Ireland?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 95.

    Michael D is the right choice. Throughout the debates he showed the most cogent understanding of the constitution. His victory is a throwback to Ireland's propensity for electing elder statesmen but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It will be interesting to see if his deep rooted convictions can be tamed by such an apolitical position.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 94.

    93. tomred86

    I think you mean ". . . you're commenting. . . "; these apostrophes are so irritating aren't they?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 93.

    @NormaStitz and your commenting because?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 92.

    After what McGuinness has done to promote Londonderry's Neighbourhood Watch scheme (aka Shin Pane), how could the electorate ignore his entitlement to stout and oysters for life in the company of personality disorders, mass murderers and other heads of state?
    And not list Jedward - proof that two heads are thicker than one?
    And to settle on a decent normal person?
    Phew - that's a relief!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 91.

    Cont. from 88
    But don't fool yourself that just cos you can quote some history your prejudice is anything other than petty. Because we can all play that game. The only difference between the conquered and the conquerers is the conquerers won!
    Shame as we should be celebrating how Ireland is moving forward and that they have made a good choice and have a future again! Good luck!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 90.

    To CormacMc0 they held this election on a Thursday,part of the reason for the low turnout? I could not vote today as i dont work in my constituency. Students are in a similar position. Why not have this election on a Friday like the general election. I think you are way of the mark when you put down Irish peoples repect for the power of the vote.

  • rate this
    -11

    Comment number 89.

    . . . and we are interested because?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 88.

    Just read the bickering. Some just can't let it lie! What about the current Irish governing party were born out of facists or that their founder sent Irish facists to Spain to support Franco... Should Ireland sit at the EU table with Spain? hahaha. Of course they should! Because its history! In a continent with such long history we can all pick a period to try "prove" our petty prejudice.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 87.

    Well done Ireland! Not a bad choice. Its a ceremonial role so called for a more dignified person. Politics aren't as important as conduct in this role.

    Sad to see McGuinness do so well but at least he didn't win.

 

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