Belfast Telegraph

Sean Gallagher concedes to Higgins

Independent candidate for the Irish presidency and one-time opinion poll-topper Sean Gallagher has conceded defeat to the Labour Party veteran politician Michael D Higgins.

The veteran Labour politician looks certain to be the Republic's ninth president, party leader Eamon Gilmore has said. The Tanaiste said it had been an honour to nominate the 70-year-old for the job.

"This is a good day for the Labour Party. Our nominee Michael D Higgins looks pretty certain that he will be elected the ninth president of Ireland," Mr Gilmore said. "I'm really happy for him. I'm really delighted that he succeeded."

According to more than four hours of tallies, Mr Higgins is well in front with about 40% of the vote and is set to succeed Mary McAleese, who served a remarkable 14-year two-term presidency, on November 11.

Mr Higgins, who had been trailing in second place in the opinion polls as recently as Sunday, made massive gains in the wake of huge controversy over his closest rival, independent Mr Gallagher.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Gilmore said there was no doubt that a political ambush in the final candidates' debate had influenced voters.

Mr Gallagher was forced to answer accusations of his past role as a political fundraiser for Fianna Fail after Sinn Fein presidential candidate Martin McGuinness launched a broadside of allegations on live TV.

"There's no doubt that what happened on the Frontline programme on Monday night had a huge bearing on the outcome," Mr Gilmore told RTE Radio. "But I think it was the response to that weighing in that was probably more significant."

Senator David Norris, another independent, was the first of the seven candidates to offer congratulations to the Labour man. He said: "I'm quite the certain the next president will be Michael D Higgins and I'd like to send my love and congratulations to Michael D, to Sabina and the rest of the family."

The first official results from the first counts in the 43 constituencies are expected at about 7pm.

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