President Higgins and his wife Sabina arriving at Saturday’s election count. Both would have reason to continue smiling once all the votes were counted. RollingNews.ie photo.
By Irish Echo Staff
To the surprise of very few, Michael D. Higgins won a second term as President of Ireland in Saturday’s election.
To the surprise of not a few, the election’s most controversial candidate, businessman Peter Casey, came second in what was a low voter turnout.
Those voters who did take the trouble to cast ballots also approved a proposal to delete a blasphemy provision from the Irish Constitution. 64.85 percent of those who voted favored the removal.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
Those living in Northern Ireland could not vote in the election. And with the exception of diplomats and Irish military personnel serving overseas, Irish citizens living abroad were unable to vote.
The total of valid votes cast was 1,473,900 out of a total of roughly 3.2 million eligible voters.
President Higgins garnered 822,566 of the total vote cast. Peter Casey, who caused controversy in the days before the election with disparaging statements on travelers, secured 342,727 votes. Following these first two were Seán Gallagher with 94,514 votes, Liadh Ní Riada the Sinn Féin candidate with 93,987 votes, Joan Freeman with 87,908 and Gavin Duffy with 32,198 votes.
The Republic’s two largest parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil did not put forward candidates for the office of the presidency, a largely constitutional role.
It was the first time in half a century that an incumbent president faced rival candidates but Mr. Higgins, who is 77, was always favored to win. After the result was announced in Dublin Castle President Higgins said he accepted the result with “humility, determination and excitement.”
“People are interested in ideas that are sincere and constructive. 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,” Mr. Higgins said.
Mr. Casey’s second place was a surprise outcome.
Buoyed by his strong performance Mr. Casey, who is Derry-based, spoke of joining Fianna Fáil and becoming taoiseach.
Casey took a swipe at Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin saying he was “too nice” to take on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is leader of Fine Gael.
Mr. Casey said that if Fianna Fáil rejected his membership he would set up a party of his own called “New Fianna Fáil.”
He indicated a desire to compete in the next general election for Fianna Fáil in Donegal.
Mr. Martin reacted by stating that Mr. Casey had no “coherent or cohesive” political vision.
Just days before the election, Mr. Casey had stirred the pot in what had been an overall lackluster campaign by questioning the separate ethnic status that travelers are accorded under Irish law.