Michael D. Higgins is celebrating victory in Ireland’s presidential election. The 70-year-old former culture minister and poet secured just under 40 per cent of the vote after the first count and his rivals have conceded defeat.
Higgins spent 25 years as a Labour MP and is seen as a safe pair of hands. After a bruising campaign all candidates were conciliatory.
“May I take this opportunity of thanking all of the media, the photojournalists and the press in all its forms, for their kindness and courtesy (during) a very long campaign. I very much enjoyed it, Higgins told reporters.
Voters turned their backs on independent candidate Sean Gallagher, who had led in the polls but fell away after a poor TV performance.
“It’s a great night for Michael D and I want to wish him every success and congratulate him,” he said.
In third place Martin McGuinness – Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister – had to deal with constant questioning over his past in the IRA and responsibility for terror attacks.
“I’m very pleased that Michael D has been elected as the new president of Ireland, and he will be my president also, I’m really really very very happy about that,” he said.
Turnout was 56 per cent, down on February’s general election which saw Fianna Fail booted out of power, but the president’s role is largely ceremonial.
Ireland has continued struggling to recover from a deep recession.