Higgins beats ex-IRA commander for Irish presidency

October 29, 2011 18:47

DUBLIN - Michael D.Higgins, a former culture minister and part-time poet from Ireland's junior coalition party, was named president on Saturday after comfortably beating a reality TV star and an ex-IRA commander to the mainly ceremonial role.

Higgins, 70, a critic of Israel's blockade of Gaza and a mainstay of human rights demonstrations for decades, was assured of victory on Friday when all his rivals conceded defeat before the first counting of votes was completed.

The Labour candidate's win will be a relief for the government after senior partners Fine Gael posted their worst presidential performance, while ex-guerrilla fighter Martin McGuinness's Sinn Fein opposition party made further gains.

Buoyed by public anger over an economic crisis that led to an EU/IMF bailout last year, Sinn Fein is trying to move into the political mainstream in the Republic of Ireland after already doing so in Northern Ireland where they share power.

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