Michael D Higgins is re-elected as Irish president for a second term


Michael D HigginsImage copyright
Maxwell Photography

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Michael D Higgins will serve a second seven year term as president

Michael D Higgins has been re-elected as Irish president after receiving 56% of the country’s election vote.

Businessman Peter Casey came second with 23.1%, while none of the other four candidates polled more than 10%.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she was “disappointed” the party’s candidate received 6.3% of the vote.

Counting to scrap the country’s laws on blasphemy will now begin, although an exit poll suggested 71% of voters indicated they voted yes.

Mr Higgins is the first incumbent in 50 years to face a challenge in his bid for a second term.

Londonderry businessman Peter Casey took significantly more votes than the final opinion polls of the campaign had predicted.

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Peter Casey is a former Dragons’ Den investor

Earlier on Saturday, the Sinn Féin leader congratulated Mr Higgins on his anticipated win, but said she was disappointed with the predicted result.

“I would have liked to see us poll more strongly,” Mrs McDonald said during an RTÉ interview.

Second-time presidential candidate Seán Gallagher tweeted his congratulations to Mr Higgins and said the most important part of the election was “an opportunity to speak in the ballot box”.

The RTÉ poll, conducted by Red C, also suggested about 2% of people who voted in the presidential ballot said they had not voted in the blasphemy referendum.

From the count

by Shane Harrison, BBC News NI Dublin Correspondent

The low turnout for this election and referendum is reflected by the lack of party supporters and tallies being done at count centres.

I didn’t see a single TD (member of the Irish parliament) at the National Convention Centre in Dublin.

But, Michael D Higgins’ backroom team are there and delighted with his expected landslide victory.

Reporters sipping coffees can be overheard talking amongst each other about the other narratives emerging from the election – the strong Peter Casey showing and poor Sinn Féin performance.

Turnout was reported to be low in many areas of the country.

The figures suggest it could be comparable to the last Presidential Election in 2011.

Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar has already congratulated Mr Higgins on his predicted win.

More than 3.2 million people are eligible to cast their ballots in the election and referendum.

Voters received two ballot papers at polling stations.

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Michael D Higgins and wife Sabina vote in Dublin

They were given a white ballot paper for the presidential election and a green ballot paper for the referendum on blasphemy.

Many were unaware there was such an offence until a member of the public referred controversial remarks made by the actor and writer Stephen Fry on an RTÉ programme to An Garda Siochana (Irish police).

Mr Fry spoke about what he regarded as God’s cruelty during the programme.

But the matter was dropped when gardai (police officers) could find no-one who was offended.

The last person to be prosecuted for blasphemy was in 1855 when the British ruled Ireland.

The president is Ireland’s “first citizen”, but has limited power – the role is mainly symbolic and he or she cannot get involved in daily politics.

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Liadh Ní Riada with husband Nicky at their voting station in Cork

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