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

Published: October 28, 2018 14:52:12 | Updated: October 29, 2018 12:54:31

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

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

Earlier on Saturday, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she was "disappointed" the party's candidate had not polled better.

Voters also supported the proposal to remove blasphemy as an offence from the Constitution, with 64.85 per cent voting yes.

Mr Higgins, the first incumbent in 50 years to face a challenge in his bid for a second term, won with 822,566 votes.

Londonderry businessman Peter Casey took significantly more votes than the final opinion polls of the campaign had predicted. His final tally was 342,727.

Ní Riada got 93,987 votes - 6.4 per cent of the total votes polled.

Irish Presidential Election result

Valid votes cast: 1,473,900

  • Michael D Higgins 822,566
  • Peter Casey 342,727
  • Seán Gallagher 94,514
  • Liadh Ní Riada 93,987
  • Joan Freeman 87,908
  • Gavin Duffy 32,198

The result was confirmed at a declaration at Dublin Castle on Saturday evening.

Speaking after his win Higgins said he accepted his mandate with "humility, determination and excitement".

"People are interested in ideas that are sincere and constructive," he said.

"For words matter, words can hurt, words can heal, words can empower, words can divide.

"And the words and ideas I have used in this campaign reflect a vision for Ireland based on four strands.

"Equal and together, strong sustainable communities, sharing history - shaping the future and Ireland's voice matters."

Low turnout

Taking to the podium after Higgins, second placed Casey said the last time he had stood in an election to the Irish Senate he got just 14 votes.

"Somebody worked it out there - it's about 23,000 per cent improvement," he joked.

Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ni Riada said she hoped it was the last Irish presidential election in which people in Northern Ireland could not vote.

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

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

Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar congratulated Higgins on his predicted win on Saturday morning.

Voters received two ballot papers at polling stations.

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).

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, reports BBC.

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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