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.

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.

Higgins Tops Frontline Debate Poll

According to a poll on The Journal.ie, Michael D Higgins fared best in last night’s pivotal Frontline debate on RTÉ, receiving 38% of the vote.

Results:
Michael D Higgins: 38%
David Norris: 21%
Martin McGuinness: 19%
Don’t Know: 8%
Seán Gallagher: 6%
Gay Mitchell: 2%
Mary Davis: 2%
Dana Rosemary Scallon: 1%

Do you agree with these findings?

Norris in Financial Trouble Following Contentious Campaign

Independent presidential candidate David Norris has admitted to being “in the red” as a result of his campaign.

The Seanad Éireann member said, “I’m out of money and I’m in the red but I’ve always been putting my money where my mouth is, I’ve consistently done this. If I think something needs to be done I will back it up with what ever meagre resources I have.”

However, he added that he did not wish to complain about his circumstances. He stated, “If I lose all my savings, I’ll be in exactly in same position as more than half country. I’m not gong to bellyache about it. People are losing their houses. I’m not going to lose my house. I’ve been very lucky that I’ve found myself in a prudent position.”

Despite the costly financial impact the campaign has left, Senator Norris insists he doesn’t regret re-entering the race for the Áras in September.

Norris pulled out of the campaign the previous month as a result of controversy surrounding clemency letters he wrote for his former partner Ezra Nawi in 1997.

Once the frontrunner, the latest Ipsos MRBI opinion poll indicated the Senator currently holds a support rating of just 8%. However, in tonight’s Frontline debate he noted that polls don’t always get it right. He also claimed that bookmakers once offered 10,000/1 on him getting a nomination in the first place.

Candidates Target Gallagher At Newstalk Debate

The focus of today’s Newstalk/Google debate took on a similar theme with numerous candidates opting to have a dig at independent candidate Sèan Gallagher’s Fianna Fàil links.

Martin McGuinness argued his belief that Gallagher is still involved with the party who he said had brought the country to its knees.

“I do think that there is no doubt whatsoever that Seán has been up to his neck in Fianna Fáil,” said the Sinn Fèin candidate.

“It is not a crime for Seán to be involved with Fianna Fáil. But Fianna Fáil is the party that ran the economy into the ground. Fianna Fáil was the party that was involved in the brown envelope culture the Galway tent and involved in betraying the people of Ireland.”

Mr McGuinness also said voters must decide whether they want a representative of an establishment party elected to the Áras. 

“People can decide to continue with the same old, same old, or they can vote for someone who represents a break from the past and someone who looks to new beginnings and who wants to stand by the ordinary people of Ireland at this very difficult time.”

Labour candidate Michael D Higgins also attacked Mr Gallagher’s connection with Fianna Fáil today, saying it was up to the public to look at different backgrounds and manifestos and warned that he believed about a fifth of voters remain undecided.

“I’ve no doubt at all in my mind that all the candidates are people who love Ireland in their own way. The issue is about who has a track record of turning vision into practical reality,” the Labour candidate said.

“Every single thing I did, from being a councillor right to a TD to a minister, was turned into a reality. That’s why I have such a solid core of voters.” Mr Higgins said transfers from every source will be hugely important and he will secure them from all quarters.

Higgins latest outburst on Gallagher`s past links have become a reoccurring theme since polls put the independent candidate ahead of the chasing pack.

 

Islanders Prepare To Vote As Final Debate Looms

Voters on the islands off the coast of Donegal will vote today in the Presidential election and the two referendums on Oireachtas inquiries and judges’ pay.

Traditionally the islanders vote ahead of the rest of the electorate to ensure that bad weather does not hinder the return of ballot boxes on time to be counted with the rest of the votes cast in the Donegal South West constituency.

Islanders on five Donegal islands will go to the polls – Arranmore, Tory, Gola, Inisfree and Inisboffin as the Presidential candidates prepare for the final debate to be staged this evening on The Frontline on RTE. It will be a last chance saloon for some of the candidates who have slumped in the polls recently to restore some credibility.

A total of 937 people are entitled to vote and the largest electorate of almost 700 are registered on the biggest island, Arranmore. The smallest electorate is on Inishfree where there are just eight voters registered.

Polling stations will be open from 11am to 3pm on each of the islands except Arranmore, where two polling stations will be open from 10.30am until 7.30pm, to accommodate people who work on the mainland.

Frontline airs this evening at 9.40 on RTE 1.