Higgins Sworn In As Ninth President Of Ireland

Michael D. Higgins has become the 9th president of Ireland after winning over 1,007,104 votes out of the total 1,771,762 votes cast in the country where the voter turnout was over 55%.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny congratulated and praised Labour candidate Higgins as the best choice for president and “personality” over the next seven years.

The winner of international peace prizes and a champion of peace abroad, Higgins was also responsible for the rise of Ireland’s modern film industry. He also established TG4, set up numerous centres of culture and supported sports and theatres around the country.

Higgins will be inaugurated into his office on the 11th of November and will only serve one term in office, a revelation he made earlier in his campaign.

The six defeated candidates have heaped praise on the 70 year old. His nearest challenger Sean Gallagher said the campaign had been very challenging at times. But he said Michael D Higgins had run his campaign with dignity and decorum. He said Higgins will be an outstanding President.

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said it was a honour to stand and described it as the “experience of a lifetime”. He was very proud that 250,000 people voted for him.

He said Mr Higgins has “great intellectual capacity” and a “huge heart” and would make a very fine President. He urged the new President to continue the work of the President and Martin McAleese in building bridges in the North.

David Norris said Mr Higgins would be a great President. He described him as a poet, visionary, academic and scholar who was passionately committed to justice and human rights.

Mr Norris said the President-elect was the only “political millionaire” in the country because he had got over a million votes.

Dana Rosemary Scallon said it had been a great honour to be part of the election campaign and was pleased to be standing at the end of it. She wished Mr Higgins well in his work over the next seven years for the good of the country.

All of the defeated candidates thanked their families and supporters for their efforts, and recorded their appreciation for the work of the Presidential Returning Officer, Ríona Ní Fhlanghaile.

A spokesperson for Mary Davis said that she congratulated Michael D Higgins yesterday and spent today with her family. Gay Mitchell has also thanked Higgins privately.

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Higgins On The Brink Of Success

The Presidential election count resumes this morning at 9am, with Michael D Higgins looking certain to be elected President.

The result of the second count was announced in Dublin Castle just after 1.30am.

The first count took 12 hours; the second took four-and-a-half.

It will take some time yet before Mr Higgins is finally elected Ireland’s ninth President.

He took a commanding lead on the first count, with 39.6% of the vote.

After the second count, which saw the distribution of the votes of the two lowest candidates (Mary Davis and Dana Rosemary Scallon), he is on just over 730,000 votes, still 155,000 votes short of the quota.

Count centres around the country will distribute Senator David Norris’ 116,000 votes this morning.

However, that will not be enough to elect Labour candidate Higgins, so at least one more count will be required, with the distribution of Gay Mitchell’s votes and possibly those of Sinn Fèin`s Martin McGuinness as well.

Higgins closest rival Sean Gallagher admitted defeat yesterday evening, congratulating the Galway native in the process.

Once Higgins election is confirmed, the count in the two Constitutional referendums will begin.

 

Gallagher Concedes Election And Congratulates Higgins

In the last few minutes, Independent presidential candidate Seán Gallagher has conceded the election. In a statement released on his website, the former frontrunner said, ““In the last hour I’ve called Michael D. Higgins to congratulate him on his performance and his success in this election. 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.”

Gallagher conceded defeat after the results from the first count put Labour candidate Higgins well out in front. Higgins amassed 373,929 votes compared to Gallagher`s 236,770 showing that the latters popularity has declined signifcantly since The Frontline debate earlier this week.

Martin McGuinness received 119,530 votes to finish in third with David Norris (67,574), Gay Mitchell (64,478), Mary Davis (30,296) and Mary Davis (27,014) following behind.

The Most Controversial Presidential Campaign Ireland Has Ever Witnessed

Bags of bitching, back-stabbing and bankruptcy – moral and otherwise – may sound more like aspects of a movie plotline than those of a presidential election but, as the old saying goes, all’s fair in love and politics. The 2011 Irish presidential election will go do down in history as the country’s most controversial and commented-on campaign to date.

As Mary McAleese’s successful two-term residence in Phoenix Park neared its end, the public began to look to the future and who may become Ireland’s 9th Head of State. Senator David Norris was the first to declare his intention to run for the highest office in the land following a social media campaign earlier this year that highlighted huge levels of support for him, particularly amongst the youth vote. Early opinion polls confirmed his popularity and labelled him the frontrunner. Much speculation ensued as to who would join Norris on October’s ballot paper – from the incumbent’s husband to a disgraced former Taoiseach to half of RTÉ’s payroll.

In the end, a motley crew of seven characters – some predicted, some not – received nominations to bid to become the first citizen of Ireland. The largest ever number of potential presidents included a politician turned poet, a Eurovision winner, a reality TV star and the former head of the IRA – an eclectic group to say the least. Initial reactions to many of the candidates were lukewarm to say the least, with certain commentators dubbing them ‘the not so magnificent seven’. The seven became six at one point in the campaign as first in became the first out when Norris withdrew from the campaign in early August following controversy regarding clemency letters he wrote in 1997 on behalf of his former partner Ezra Nawi, who had been convicted of statutory rape in Israel. However, following an outcry of public support, Norris dramatically re-entered the race in September.

Michael D Higgins was announced as the Labour candidate, Gay Mitchell was the surprise Fine Gael nominee, Sinn Féin shocked many by choosing to nominate Northern Ireland’s First Minister Martin McGuinness and, following their disastrous showing in February’s General Election, Fianna Fáil chose to not endorse any candidate. Mary Davis, Seán Gallagher and, latterly, Dana Rosemary Scallon joined Norris in the Independent ranks. Many of the candidates criticised the nomination process, with Higgins lanelling it “archaic” and McGuinness stating that people, rather than just Oireachtas members and councillors, should be able to nominate candidates. After weeks of uncertainty, all independent candidates eventually received the required level of official support. Now the race could officially begin.

Pavement pounding the length and breadth of the country was punctuated by a series of radio and television debates, with all seven candidates discussing the issues on the RTÉ News at One, The Late Late Show, Tonight With Vincent Browne, Newstalk, and, perhaps most significantly, Prime Time and The Frontline. A largely English-spoken debate was held on the country’s native language broadcaster TG4. The Prime Time debate was initially focused on Miriam O’Callaghan’s intense questioning of Martin McGuinness regarding his IRA past. During the campaign, he was criticised by victims’ families and confronted by David Kelly, son of the murdered Paddy Kelly. However, this was not the most remembered element of the broadcast. With just a few minutes remaining, Dana Rosemary Scallon unexpectedly began to read a pre-written statement regarding unreleased allegations “of a most untrue, malicious and vile nature” that she claimed were being made against a family member and would soon become public knowledge. When urged to elaborate on these allegations, Scallon refused. In the succeeding days, accusations of a paeodophilic nature were made against her brother and former campaign manager, John Brown. This was the latest in a series of setbacks for Scallon, who had just days beforehand been accused of lying to the public regarding her American citizenship.

All candidates were dogged by controversy of some sort during the race. Gay Mitchell had to repeatedly defend himself against claims that he was not the chosen candidate of his own party as it was insinuated that members of Fine Gael were refusing to get behind the former Lord Mayor of Dublin and instead favoured his Labour rival, Michael D Higgins. Mitchell’s campaign was further undermined when his tactic of negative campaigning and repeated attacks on Martin McGuinness backfired. Given the intense amounts of mud-slinging, Higgins’ biggest admission during the campaign raised little attention – the fact he had previously smoked marijuana paling in comparison to the skeletons in his competitors’ closets.  He also dismissed claims that he was too old to serve as president but did admit that, if elected, would only serve one term. Mary Davis was pressed to elaborate on whether or not her independence was tainted by her involvement with a number of state boards. On top of this, she had to deny alleged nepotism regarding her husband Julian’s PR firm. Norris once again came under fire, this time due to disability payments he received while unable to lecture at Trinity College Dublin. During this time, he remained an active and paid member of Seanad Éireann. Such setbacks paved the way for the dark horse of the competition, Dragon’s Den star Seán Gallagher.

Save for a few attempts made to link him to Fianna Fáil, Gallagher’s campaign was relatively smooth sailing. His refusal to engage in negative campaigning combined with his promise of economic encouragement and job creation endeared him to the public. His popularity was confirmed in the final number of opinion polls – which had up until then shown huge fluctuations throughout the campaign. He convincingly topped the last Ipsos MRBI poll with a 40% support rating. In the same poll, Higgins received 25%, McGuinness 15%, Norris 8%, Mitchell 6% and Davis and Scallon 3% each. Gallagher seemed unstoppable. This was all, however, to change thanks to a single utterance on The Frontline, the final TV debate of the campaign. As soon as the word ‘envelop’ left his lips, Gallagher’s fate was sealed, stamped and delivered. During the debate, he was questioned repeatedly regarding his business dealings and long-standing  association with the Fianna Fáil party – nothing particularly new there.

However, when McGuinness turned up the heat on the frontrunner sparks flew. The Sinn Féin candidate claimed to have proof that Gallagher personally received a cheque of €5,000 from a businessman in aid of FF. The latter initially denied this. Debate host Pat Kenny subsequently read out a statement from an unofficial SF Twitter account saying that the party planned to hold a press conference the following day with the supposed donor, former convict Hugh Morgan, in attendance. Much backtracking ensued with Gallagher stumbling to the point that he had to rely on the old chestnut of having “no recollection” of the alleged incident, while in the same breath referring to the envelop in which he may or may not have received the cash. The audience hissed their disapproval and McGuinness grinned like a Cheshire cat. The damage was done. Social media sites lit up in response but, as no more official polls were due to be carried out prior to polling, it remained to be seen whether or not the online outrage would transfer to a significant enough drop in his support levels to fully scupper his campaign. Michael D Higgins was now, once again, the unofficial favourite.

It’s now the day after polling and the official count began at 9am this morning. The official percentage of voters is well down on the 70% that voted in this year’s General Election but thought to be in line with previous presidential ballots, coming in at just under 50%. At polling stations yesterday, RTÉ and Red C Research asked 1,000 people how they had voted. More than a quarter of those questioned admitted to changing their minds in the final week of the campaign with 28% of voters switching first preference in the same period; 58% of voters switched from Gallagher with 71% of these people voting for Higgins instead. Half of voters who were polled said the recent controversy surrounding Gallagher affected their voting pattern.

Early tallies suggest that Higgins has indeed topped the poll or received the highest number of transfers in many areas and, save a major shift later in the day, is on course to become Ireland’s 9th President. The Labour party has already declared October 29 as ‘Michael D Day’. David Norris was the first candidate to concede defeat. He wished Higgins well and called today “A good day for Ireland”, adding that he was confident Higgins would make a great president. As Ireland looks on, the electorate hopes that such faith will be ratified.

Who Did You Vote For And Why?

 

 

We want to know who you voted for and why?

World Media Offer Their Take On The Presidential Election

The world media have been casting their eye over the seven candidates running in today’s presidential election and have scrutinised their every move. Much of the reports coming from abroad focus primarily on the tussle between Michael D Higgins and Sean Gallagher, while others reflect upon Martin McGuinness` past affiliations with the IRA.

Reuters reports the election as a three way contest pitting a “former guerrilla commander” against a television star and politician-turned-poet (Michael D. Higgins).

The news agency claims that McGuinness’s candidacy shook up the “dull race” but adds that although he is unlikely to win,  running gave a “fillip to his party…and its campaign for a united Ireland”.

Al Jazeera also leads with Derry native McGuinness – with a headline reading “IRA commander eyes presidency”. The Middle East news agency says that he is still suffering due to the constant scrutiny from a “hostile media” and a public unwilling to forgive.

The Washington Post describes the Sinn Féin candidate as a “former Irish Republican Army warlord”. It also depicts David Norris as Ireland’s “top gay-rights crusader”.

Seán Gallagher is called a “bagman – a collector of undisclosed and potentially corrupt donations – for Fianna Fáil” in the same article.

However, the New York Times takes a different angle on the story, stating that the Sinn Féin candidate’s estimated 15 per cent support is a sign of the “winds of reconciliation” blowing across the island.

In England, The Independent writes that the result of the election could hinge on one word – “envelope”. It says that Gallagher has experienced a “meteoric plunge” in the past few days since Mondays Frontline debate broke his stronghold and blew the race for the presidency wide open.

There has been much coverage of the elections abroad in an attempt to keep the Irish diaspora informed however a stronger reason for such a level of coverage largely relates to the controversies and scandals that have dogged the campaign throughout.

Polling Station Opens As Identity Of Next President Looms

Voting in the Presidential Election began at 7am this morning and will continue until 10pm.

Two referenda, on judicial pay and Oireachtas investigations, are also being voted on, as is the Dublin West by-election following the death of former Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan earlier this year.

Just over 3.1 Million people are entitled to vote in the two elections and the two referenda.

The electorate will be asked to choose their top three candidates for the presidency in order of their preference while the referendum are based on a yes or no answer. Voters in Dublin West will also use the single transferable vote system. 

That is every Irish citizen over the age of 18 who is included on the Register of Electors or the Supplementary Register.

Most people should have received a polling card by now, but even if you have not you are still entitled to vote as long as you are registered.

However, you may be asked for identification at your local polling station.

Acceptable forms of identification include a passport, driving licence, an employee or student identity card with a photograph, or a bank or credit union book showing an address in the constituency.

You can also use a cheque book or card, a credit card, or a birth or marriage certificate, if you also have another document showing you live in the constituency.

Higgins Looks Set To Succeed On The Back Of McGuinness’ Allegations

Revelations which were made by Martin McGuinness on Monday night’s Frontline presidential debate, concerning supposedly independent candidate Sean Gallagher’s Fianna Fail fundraising activities at events as recent as 2 years ago, are set to blow previously made election predictions out of the water.

Less than 48 hours after the allegations were made by Sinn Fein candidate Martin McGuinness, all major bookmakers reshuffled their odds, ultimately reinstating Michael D. Higgins as the favourite to win tomorrow’s Presidential election. Bookies such as Paddy Power, BoyleSports, Ladbrokes and William Hill felt the need to shorten Higgins’ odds after they saw an influx of bets being placed on the Labour candidate.

Paddy Power, the main point of reference when considering bookmakers’ odds in any situation, have now priced Michael D. Higgins at 1/5. Sean Gallagher comes in at a not-so-close second place with odds of 3/1, while McGuinness trails behind with a price of 20/1. In spite of these odds, bookmakers still believe  Gallagher is most likely to top the poll, however they believe Higgins will overtake him once transfer votes come into play.

Conspirators may well believe that Martin McGuinness was already in possession of this knowledge, well before Monday night’s debate but held off until the very last moment to deliver this devastating knock-back to the frontrunner in the campaign trail, and they would probably be right. This titbit of information has already proved extremely successful for McGuiness’ campaign, who has already seen his odds slashed by Paddy Power, although he still has little chance of winning.

Contrastingly, Labour’s Michael D. Higgins has faired extremely well following the allegations against the ‘independent’ candidate, Sean Gallagher. Whether it was news of Gallagher’s somewhat shady past, or Higgins’ cunning and sly approach to the situation ( at first telling people to leave Gallagher alone so that he could maintain his ‘nice Grandad’ image, and later telling them to interogate him-once it became clear what Higgins was set to gain from the revelations), Higgins’ is nevertheless set to succeed at tomorrow’s election.

Has Gallagher Done Enough to Salvage Campaign?

As the broadcast moratorium looms, can Seán Gallagher say or do enough to save his presidential bid before 2pm today? The Independent candidate is running out of time as he attempts to salvage a campaign that seemed impermeable just a few days ago.

Gallagher has been doing serious damage control since Monday night’s ‘Frontline’ debate on RTÉ, when Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness accused him of receiving a cheque for €5,000 for Fianna Fáíl three years ago. Gallagher’s unconvincing and inconsistent style of answering was criticised by many and and may well lead to a dip in his popularity.

Mr Gallagher claims he didn’t solicit donations for the party but last week did admit to asking acquaintances to attend a Fianna Fáil fundraiser. Subsequently he conceded that he did indeed contact convicted fuel smuggler Hugh Morgan, a man he did not know, and invited him to the €5,000-a-head dinner. The political party has refused to reveal which business people and property developers paid this fee at the fundraiser Gallagher helped to organise.

The Independent candidate has played down his past connections with Fianna Fáil throughout his campaign. His insistence that he would run a clean race and not engage in negative campaigning was made null and void when he made a counter-attack on Sinn Féin yesterday, labelling McGuinness’ accusations as an “ambush” and a “political assassination attempt” – an unfortunate, and some say deliberate, turn of phrase given McGuinness’ IRA past.

He also expressed reservations regarding the female audience member, Glenna Lynch, who questioned him about a number of his business transactions during the ‘Frontline’ debate, suggesting she may have been planted there deliberately by Sinn Féin. Ms Lynch has dismissed such a claim and labelled Gallagher a hypocrite.

Although the final official poll was carried out prior to the ‘Frontline’ broadcast, it gave Gallagher a 40% support rating – a commanding 15% above his nearest rival, Labour candidate Michael D Higgins. The Ray D’Arcy Show on Today FM this morning carried out a poll of their listeners which showed that while his rating a dropped by a few percent, Gallagher is still the frontrunner, with Higgins placed second, McGuinness third and Independent David Norris in fourth place. Whether or not the election results will follow this pattern remains to be seen.

McGuinness Criticised By Families of IRA Victims

A daughter of murdered Jean McConville has criticised the participation of Sinn Fèin’s Martin McGuinness in the Presidential election.

McConville was the mother of ten who was abducted by the IRA in Belfast in 1972 and shot dead. Her body was found 31 years later in 2003 by a passer-by on a Co Louth beach.

Speaking at her home in Co Down, Helen McKendry said: “I don’t think Martin McGuinness should be standing. He should be telling the truth to victims’ families, the whole truth.”

Her husband, Seamus McKendry, also criticised the Derry native: “I think the office of President has too much prestige for any Sinn Féiner to be contesting it.”

The McKendrys demonstrated against Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams when he ran as a Dáil candidate in Co Louth during the last general election.

Elsewhere, the family of Tom Oliver who was kidnapped and killed by the IRA in July 1991 has attacked McGuinness over his failure to say that Mr Oliver was murdered.

 McGuinness said he would not disagree with the families of Oliver or McConville when they described the deaths as murder, despite failing to admit that were actually murdered.

Oliver was a farmer who was kidnapped and killed by the IRA, who believed he was a Garda informer, a claim staunchly denied by his family.

Yesterday evening the son of Mr Oliver, Eugene Oliver, issued a statement via Independent candidate Sean Gallagher`s campaign team on behalf of the family.

In it Eugene Oliver said he was really upset when he heard Mr McGuinness warn another candidate (Gallagher) on The Frontline to tell the truth.

“What shallow hypocrisy from a man who has dined out on weasel words for most of his career,” the statement said.

Mr Oliver said he wanted Mr McGuinness to “stop hiding behind weasel words” and admit that his father and Mrs McConville were murdered by the IRA, which McGuinness was a leading member of.

The statement went on to say that everyone saw the “empty words” of Mr McGuinness on The Frontline programme when he refused to describe their deaths as murder.

“Even at this late stage, with just days to go to polling, he could not find it in his heart to admit my father, along with other innocent people, were murdered,” Mr Oliver said.

“He was gunned down in cold blood and even twenty years after, at this remove my family are entitled to finally and unequivocally hear the words ‘murder’ uttered from his lips,” the statement adds.