President Michael Higgins: Ireland's next leader


Michael D. Higgins looks set to become Ireland's next president. In this photo a supporter hands out the presidential candidate's leaflets in Kilkenny on Oct. 25, 2011.


Peter Muhly

Ireland’s next president will be the 70-year-old human rights activist, peace campaigner and poet Michael D. Higgins, reports the Telegraph. The news came after Higgins closest rival, businessman Sean Gallagher, conceded defeat on Friday.

"In the last hour I've called Michael D. Higgins to congratulate him on his performance and his success in this election," Gallagher said in a statement.

"His slogan stated that he would be a president to be proud of and I believe he will be that president."

Higgins, known affectionately as Michael D. in Ireland, has 43 percent of the votes so far, with results in from 13 of the country’s 43 constituencies, the Telegraph reports.

Gallagher had been the leader in the polls until Monday’s television debate in Ireland when another candidate accused him of improper campaign funds. Former IRA paramilitary leader Martin McGuiness accused Gallagher of taking a 5,000-euro ($7,082) donation from a convicted criminal, according to the Guardian.

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United Kingdom bookmaker Paddy Power closed its books early Friday because of Higgins’ early jump in vote tallies.

AP reports:

Higgins, a former University College Galway lecturer in sociology and politics, is credited as an intellectual heavyweight of Irish politics with three published collections of poetry to his credit and a four-decade record of promoting home-grown arts, literature, film and the native Gaelic language. Unlike other English-only candidates and most of the nation, Higgins spoke the native Irish tongue fluently on the campaign trail.

During his 30 years in politics, Higgins has also been highly critical of U.S. foreign policy in Central America, Iraq and Afghanistan. He has championed left-wing human rights cases around the world, and has condemned the “get-rich-quick excesses” of the Celtic Tiger economy for its greediness.

“Even at times when it was deeply unpopular he took part in protests about human rights issues here and in other parts of the world,” said political strategist Fergus Finlay, according to BBC.

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