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Higgins elected ninth Irish president

Last Updated: Saturday, October 29, 2011 - 22:28

Dublin: Irish poet and human rights activist
Michael D Higgins was officially confirmed as his country`s
ninth president on Saturday after a marathon two-day count.

The 70-year-old former culture minister for the Labour
party, the junior partner in the coalition government in
Dublin, beat off an ex-IRA commander and a reality TV star to
succeed Mary McAleese in the ceremonial post.

At the Dublin Castle count centre, returning officer
Riona Ni Fhlanghaile declared Higgins elected after he
accumulated 1,007,104 votes after four counts, on a turnout of
56 per cent.

Under Ireland`s complicated election system, the winner
needed at least 885,882 votes, which represents 50 per cent of
the valid votes plus one.

"As he has reached the quota I hereby declare Michael D
Higgins elected to the office of president of Ireland," Ni
Fhlanghaile said.

Higgins took 39.6 per cent of the first preference vote
in the ballot on Thursday, and was named the de facto winner
when his main rival, Sean Gallagher, conceded yesterday.

The victory represents a remarkable turnaround for
Higgins, who was trailing about 15 points behind Gallagher
before the independent businessman`s campaign exploded in the
final days of the campaign.

During a stormy televised debate on Monday, Sinn Fein
candidate and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness accused
Gallagher of collecting a USD 7,000 donation from a convicted
criminal -- and his lead melted away.

A poll showed 28 per cent of voters changed their minds
in the final week of the campaign, with 58 per cent of them
switching from Gallagher to Higgins.

Married with three sons and a daughter, Higgins is a
fluent Irish speaker, president of the soccer club in his
Galway base in the west of Ireland and has had three books of
poems published.

He recited his poetry on a live album by Irish rock band,
The Stunning, and was a columnist for Irish music magazine Hot


First Published: Saturday, October 29, 2011 - 21:18
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