Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Coyne
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission
The poet, peace campaigner and president of Galway United football club Michael D Higgins is poised to become Ireland’s next president after rivals conceded defeat in the most fractious campaign in the country’s history.
The Irish Labour party candidate was on course to win at least 40% of the first preference vote. Of the first eight constituencies to declare, Higgins was leading in seven of them.
The 70-year-old enjoyed a late surge of support, putting him well ahead of the former frontrunner Seán Gallagher. Martin McGuinness, whose candidacy turned the spotlight on his past as the IRA’s chief of staff and his role in many prominent atrocities during the Troubles, was almost certain to come third.
Leaders of other parties and rival candidates conceded on Friday afternoon that Higgins was on course to win the presidential contest. Micheál Martin, the leader of the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil, congratulated Higgins on his performance “which will see him elected the ninth president of Ireland”…
Sinn Féin appeared to acknowledge the damage that his IRA legacy had inflicted on McGuinness’s bid. He had hoped to achieve about 20% but may only get around 15% – the same as the party polled in February’s general election…
The main party in the current government, Fine Gael, had a disastrous election. In Roscommon, the early morning tallies reported that in some ballot boxes there were only four votes for its candidate, the Euro MEP Gay Mitchell. The party also appeared likely to suffer another loss in the Dublin West byelection, caused by the death of Ireland’s former finance minister Brian Lenihan. The Irish Labour party appeared poised to win the seat.
Bravo. In a land with many political currents represented in a democratic election, Higgins’ victory is significant in size and breadth.