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Wednesday 29 March 2017

Candidate Michael D Higgins warns over 'volatile' polls

Presidential candidate Gay Mitchell (centre) canvases with Fine Gael colleagues on the East Peir in Dun Laoghaire. Photo: PA
Presidential candidate Gay Mitchell (centre) canvases with Fine Gael colleagues on the East Peir in Dun Laoghaire. Photo: PA
Presidential candidate Gay Mitchell (centre) canvases with Fine Gael colleagues on the East Peir in Dun Laoghaire. Presidential hopeful Sean Gallagher has taken the lead in the race for the Aras, according to a new poll. The flagging fortunes of Gay Mitchell show no signs of improving, with the Fine Gael man down two points to 8%. Photo: PA

Ed Carty

Labour candidate for the presidency Michael D Higgins has blamed volatility in opinion polls for his dramatic drop from front-runner to second in the race for the Aras.



The veteran politician and former minister also said it was crude and insulting to suggest his age would be a barrier to the role.



The latest survey has shown a huge surge in support for independent Sean Gallagher, up 18 to 39%, and Mr Higgins polling well on 27%, up two, but sliding to second place.



The 70-year-old Labour candidate said the polls suggested a two-horse race.



"I think it's important to note that there's a lot of volatility in the polls," he said.



"The confident factor in the polls has been my own position either at the top or very near the top. There's been a steady increase.



"Obviously the other candidate has now in fact made significant gains and so that you have, if you like, two candidates have broken away."



The Red C survey published in The Sunday Business Post put Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness down 3% to 13%, Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell on 8%, while support for David Norris has plummeted from 14% to 7%. Mary Davis is on 4%, while Dana Rosemary Scallon has 2%.



Mr Higgins lashed out at suggestions that there is a perception among the electorate that his main rival Mr Gallagher appeals to a younger generation thanks to a business background, while he is maintaining support from older generations.



"I would regard that as deeply insulting not only to me but to everyone over the age of 60," Mr Higgins said.



And in a swipe at Mr Gallagher, a former Fianna Fail national executive member, Mr Higgins said voters have the choice between his record of public service and "the leftovers of the Celtic Tiger".



In the latest in a series of interviews with candidates on RTE Radio's This Week programme, Mr Higgins said he has the track record for the role of president.



He said wisdom is an advantage and judgment is crucial. He also claimed the next president will be required to bring the country through a difficult seven years and restore its reputation abroad and inclusion at home.



Mr Higgins said he could do the job both in Irish and in English.



Meanwhile, Mr Gallagher, a former panellist on the Dragons' Den television show, said he would not take anything for granted as he canvassed in Meath.

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