Michael D. Higgins is on course to be elected Ireland’s new president. The 70-year-old former culture minister and poet is ahead in most exit surveys after Thursday’s ballot, and his nearest rival has conceded defeat.
Although the role is largely ceremonial, the campaign saw a fair amount of mud-slinging between the seven candidates.
Higgins has been called by businessman Sean Gallagher who led in the polls until recently but says he has now congratulated his rival for winning the vote.
Another candidate has also said it is clear that Higgins will become president.
Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness looks set to come third. Support for Northern Ireland’s deputy prime minister is thought to have been damaged by his past in the IRA, which fought a violent campaign against British rule in the North.
An official result will only come on Saturday as counting is done manually and the electoral system is complicated.
The vote to choose a new president to succeed Mary McAleese comes as Ireland tries to recover from a deep recession.