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.

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.

Gilmore Labels Higgins As Best Candidate

Labour Party leader and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has reiterated his stance that his party colleague Michael D Higgins Is the best candidate for the presidency.

Mr Gilmore also stated that the gap shown in the opinion polls between Higgins and Sean Gallagher could be bridged between now and Thursday.

“If people switch their vote the gap can be bridged between now and Thursday. Michael D Higgins has the political experience to do the constitutional role – remember that the last two presidents were constitutional lawyers.

“Nobody in this election has the track record of Michael D Higgins in relation to inclusion and working for people who have been at a disadvantage. He is a president we can be proud of,” he said.

He denied Mr Higgins had been making a point about Mr Gallagher’s business dealings yesterday when he said he respected entrepreneurship “as long as it was ethical.”

“No the point being made was if you look at what’s happened to the Irish economy over the last few years and you look at the collapse that has happened, the one thing that was missing from entrepreneurship and some sections of the Irish economy during the Celtic tiger years was a lack of ethics.

“Michael D Higgins was one of the few people who questioned what was happening during those years. He has conducted a positive campaign from the very beginning and was just reminding people of his track record,” said Gilmore.

 

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.

 

Last-ditch Attempt to Sway Floating Voters

The seven presidential candidates will take place in a make or break debate tonight with Pat Kenny set to grill them on RTÉ’s flagship current affairs show ‘The Frontline’.

Kenny himself admitted that he is one of the thousands of floating voters still undecided as to who they will support on Thursday but said “Getting up close and personal in the TV debate will put me in an ideal position to have my mind made up by the candidates.”

Kenny feels that tonight’s debate will be the final chance for any of the other candidates to seize the presidency from Seán Gallagher or Labour’s Michael D Higgins. He added, “I don’t want brawling on the floor but I do want them to engage with each other. If candidates who are down the field don’t engage in that manner, well, they simply don’t deserve to be president.”

Frontrunner Gallagher’s links with the Fianna Fáil party appear to have not affected his swelling popularity three days before the national vote. Despite being an Independent candidate, he has deep with link the party – some of which were highlighted in a letter he sent to the heads of Fianna Fail branches in Louth in January 2009 when he was seeking their support to get back on to the party’s national executive. In the letter he documented his 30 year commitment to the party and emphasised the two years he worked with former party leader Charlie Haughey from 1985-1987 when he was the leader of Ógra Fianna Fáil.

In a late attempt to curb the seemingly unstoppable surge in support for Gallagher, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar publicly announced he would be giving his second preference vote to Higgins, behind Fine Gael’s nominee Gay Mitchell. He called for members of his party to follow suit.

For the many undecided voters, the 90-minute Frontline debate will air on RTE1 at 9.40pm tonight.

Higgins Scrambles for Unemployed Vote

Despite various polls reporting that Seán Gallagher is set to be the next President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins is unconvinced of his main rival’s predicted success on Thursday. Speaking during a Grafton Street canvass earlier this weekend, Higgins retorted that “voters are now looking for substance” (and this is evidently something he feels he possesses by the bucket load), when faced with criticism concerning his current popularity with electoral voters.

Michael D. went on to admit that he and Gallagher stand for very different things, and made a second attempt to discredit his competition by asking the nation to remember where he has been for the past 15 years and then to consider what Gallagher has been doing; in short, making light of Gallagher’s non-political background.

Throughout his address to the public, Higgins also segregated the unemployed by stating that those who are currently not working should vote for him and implied that his reasoning for this is that they are akin to him because he is, “somebody who has never had a share, somebody who has never had a company…I have never had transactions in business. I am 100 miles from the Celtic Tiger”.

Randomly, in a last ditch attempt to try and claw some of his lost votes back from the country, Michael D. Higgins went on to stress his level of fluency in the Irish language, as though this may endear voters to him.

Higgins’ undignified outburst comes alongside news that in three separate opinion polls carried out and reported on in the Sunday Business Post, the Sunday Times and the Sunday Independent today, Higgins and Gallagher are now in a two-horse race; a two-horse race in which Gallagher is destined to win.

It would appear that Higgins’ last hope of securing presidential victory, is to cash in on second preference transfers from his competitors. The poll which was carried out by the Sunday Independent showed that he may be in receipt of up to 35% of David Norris’ second preferences, 43% of Gay Mitchell’s and 35% of Martin McGuinness’. A poll led by Quantum backed up Higgins’ transfer success opportunity by revealing that he leads with 32%, in comparison with Gallagher’s 20%.

Mary Robinson proved that it is possible to succeed in a presidential campaign even if you are not the forerunner, when we saw her win the 1990 election, despite only securing 39% of the popular vote compared with Brian Lenihan’s 45%. Her transfer success in that vote, is something which Higgins’ needs to remember if he is to keep his spirits up until the end of the week.

Norris Sees Secularisation as a Way of Ensuring Equal Respect

Independent presidential candidate David Norris has reiterated his belief that the church and state should be two completely separate bodies. Senator Norris, a long-time member of the Church of Ireland, feels secularisation is the best way forward in order to ensure the rights of both non-believers and believers are respected equally.

He admitted that secularisation is now used as a somewhat divisive term but insisted that he wished to be a bastion for the rights of all people “regardless of race, religion, education, social background or orientation”.

He said, “I am religious but I don’t wear it on my sleeve. It gives me great comfort but I also understand religion has a place in society. Problems only arise when a religious pressure group claims to be more important than anyone else. The meek shall inherit the earth, not the people who decide they are better than everyone else.”

Senator Norris elucidated his views when speaking to TellUsWhy.ie. During the interview, he also claimed to be the only individual in the race for the Áras who has “used the Constitution to help protect a marginalised minority”.  He listed his involvement in the establishment of counselling services to help those in need and in setting up businesses to create employment as proof of this.

If elected, Mr Norris insisted he would “put the welfare of the people at the heart of the Presidency” – something he claimed those connected to established political parties simply could not achieve.

In a separate interview with The Irish Times, Mr Norris said he believed it would be a mistake if the Coalition took possession of the presidency as it would lead to an unhealthy “all-encompassing control of the seats of power in Ireland”.

Mr Norris praised how our previous two presidents “reinvented the role” while in office. He said changing circumstances may mean the role needs to be reinvented once more in order “to make sure that Ireland can hold its collective head high and that in our representation of the island around the world, people will continue to smile when they think of Ireland”.

Earlier today, Mr Norris dismissed the possibility of a transfer vote pact between himself and Labour’s presidential nominee Michael D Higgins, saying that it was up to the Irish people to vote in any manner they saw fit.

Higgins – Norris Transfer Pact on the Cards?

Labour presidential nominee Michael D Higgins has indicated he would not be against the possibility of a transfer pact with Independent candidate Senator David Norris in next week’s election. Mr Higgins stated that there have, as of yet, been no formal discussions on the matter but remains open to the idea.

The comments came after Mr Higgins earlier distanced himself from a statement issued in his name which criticised Senator Norris’s voting record on the 2008 banking guarantee.

The statement, which was released yesterday, said Mr Norris was “being somewhat economical with the truth when he has claimed on several occasions during the Presidential election campaign that he “voted against the bank guarantee”.”

Responding this morning, the Norris team said they viewed the statement as an attempt by Mr Higgins to deflect attention from his support for the Tax Amnesty Bill in 1993. They stated: “At 7.15pm on the evening of 1st October 2008 Senator David Norris voted against the amendment to the Order of Business to allow the Seanad to force through a guillotined Bank Guarantee Bill which was being forced through the Dáil and the Government then wished to force through the Seanad without an opportunity for appropriate debate.”

In a debate between the two candidates at NUI Maynooth today, Mr Higgins firmly withdrew the statement and described it as a rare example of something being released from his office without him first seeing it.

The former frontrunner in the opinion polls has now fallen into second place behind Independent Seán Gallagher. Senator Norris remains hovering in the mid-section of most recent surveys. He has so far not given his opinion on the potential transfer pact.

Michael D. Higgins sets out to rally female vote

Labour  candidate Higgins called for the current legislation of human trafficking to be rigerously monitored .

He marked the European Union’s Anti-Trafficking Day this Tuesday by thanking the people who campaigned and fought for the Act on Human Trafficking to be passed into law in 2008.

Higgins further added that women are lurred into Ireland with the promise of a better life and that the new legislation was a big step in the fight against human trafficking. He said that trafficked women had previously been unable to approach the authorities.

He nevertheless described the options trafficked women now have as a “Catch 22” situation beacuse a women who comes forward to the Gardai, is allowed a certain period of time to apply for asylum.

Mr Higgins said that, there is however no guarantee of a successful outcome to a person’s application and few women are coming forward. He added that, to date, no convictions have been secured under the legislation and it therefore needs to be rigorously monitored as to its effectiveness.

Yesterday Higgins continued his presidential campaign by addressing a Safe Ireland event hosted by RTE presenter Miriam O’Callaghan.

He highlighted that necesarry financial cutbacks should not affect  women’s and children’s safety and highlighted that if elected president he would review progress on the elimination of violenece against women annually.

Higgins strongly expressed his opinion on the issue and said that violence simply needs to be eliminated and highlighted that against common belief violence against women does not only effect people of lower social classes.

Continuing his rally for female votes, the president hopeful Higgins  attended this morning’s Women’s Conference at Merrion Square in Dublin.

Higgins Will Only Serve One Term If Elected

Labour Presidential candidate Michael D Higgins has stated that he will only serve one term in office if he is elected.

He has said he has always operated with what he called ‘extraordinary energy’ particularly in his human rights missions abroad and that he would continue to do so .

He said he had always been on the cusp of change and was opposed to conservatism where it has stopped people acting in their best interests.

Mr Higgins said he was against a return to the values of the Celtic Tiger and the country needed to be inclusive at home and to restore the reputation of Ireland abroad.

Asked who would be his first guests at the Áras, Mr Higgins said that if elected, he would invite the other six candidates and ask them to talk about the best moments of the campaign.