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Thursday 19 April 2018

Polls open for presidential election

POLLING stations across the country opened at 7am this morning as voting begins to elect the country's ninth president.

The polling stations will be open until 10pm, and voters will also be voting on two constitutional referendums on judicial pay and Oireachtas investigations. With clear skies and crisp weather voters are expected to attend polling stations which remain open for 15 hours today.

A by-election will also take place in the Dublin West constituency for the seat of the late Brian Lenihan.

Just over 3.1m people are registered to vote and will be entitled to vote without a polling card as long as they have a valid form of ID - passport or ID card with a photo is allowed.

Here are the record seven candidates standing in the 2011 election for the ninth President of Ireland.

Mary Davis

The north Dublin charity boss gained widespread acclaim for bringing the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games to Croke Park.

In 2004, she was appointed to the Council of State, the high-profile group which also includes judges and former taoisigh (prime ministers) tasked with advising the President on legislation.

During the campaign, the Independent candidate was forced to detail her appointments to state boards by successive Fianna Fail governments and how much she earned.

The 55-year-old revealed she was paid almost 400,000 euro in the past decade for sitting on boards and other commercial firms.

If polls are to be believed, Ms Davis will be the second eliminated.

Sean Gallagher

The businessman originally from a rural background in the border county of Cavan, has described himself as a youth worker, disability campaigner and stood as an Independent.

However, his links with Fianna Fail - the political party decimated in the February general election for its ties to developers and grevious mishandling of the economy - has cost him dearly in the final hours of the campaign.

As opinion poll topper he faced a barrage of accusations that he acted as "bag man" for the party in a fundraising drive in 2008, soliciting and collecting a 5,000 euro cheque from Hugh Morgan, a businessman and one-time political donor who subsequently admitted he smuggled fuel.

He has also been under intense scrutiny over a director's loan of more than 80,000 euro that was paid into his bank account from one of his companies - a breach of company law he blamed on a bookkeeping error.

Much of Mr Gallagher's appeal has been put down to a "likeability factor", his role as an investor on the Irish version of Dragon's Den and business acumen.

He promised to use his business links to help boost job creation if elected.

Michael D Higgins

A Labour Party veteran, university lecturer, poet and former government minister.

The 70-year-old is known for his campaigning against human rights abuses around the world.

Mr Higgins levelled charges of ageism at detractors who raised questions over his age and fitness for the role as president. He described the suggestion as deeply insulting.

He has steered clear from attacking his competitors during most of the campaign, only this week making a few veiled remarks about the others' shortcomings.

Mr Higgins is one of the frontrunners in the election along with Mr Gallagher.

Martin McGuinness

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister stepped down from his high profile role to stand for the presidency.

The Derry man is the only candidate with an address outside the Republic and therefore no vote.

A former IRA commander, he asked voters to judge him for his crucial role in the peace process and not his terrorist past, but was repeatedly confronted by victims on the campaign trail.

He has been called to answer for, among others, the IRA killings of Private Patrick Kelly, an Irish soldier killed in a shoot out to free kidnapped supermarket boss Don Tidey in 1983 and Garda Detective Jerry McCabe, gunned down as he tried to foil a post office robbery in 1996.

However, his campaign will also be remembered for a calculated character assassination on Mr Gallagher during the last live television debate.

Measured allegations left the poll topper stumbling over explanations and raised more questions about his background.

Mr McGuinness revealed the controversy over the 5,000 euro donation to Fianna Fail.

Bookies have Mr McGuinness finishing in a respectable third position - a huge profile boost for the party.

Gay Mitchell

MEP and former Dublin Lord Mayor and TD who stood for the leadership of Fine Gael in 2002 but lost out to now-Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

He is a pro-life advocate and repeatedly sought clemency for convicted killers on death row in the US.

Mr Mitchell made headlines during the campaign for his lack of popularity despite his party enjoying huge support with speculation that Fine Gael faithful have been reluctant to get behind him.

It is believed Mr Mitchell will be the third or fourth to be eliminated in the count.

Senator David Norris

The former Trinity College Dublin university professor was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in Ireland.

However the Dublin based senator's campaign has been shrouded in controversy over clemency letters he wrote to Israeli authorities for an ex-partner convicted of statutory rape in the late 1990s.

Questions were also raised over sick pay he received from Trinity, which turned out to be worth up to three times more than he originally admitted.

It is understood he received as much as 720,000 euro in 16 years up to last summer when he reached pension age. He collects his pension as well as his full-time salary from the Seanad.

Senator Norris is expected to finish in fourth or fifth place following the count.

Dana Rosemary Scallon

The 1970 Eurovision winner was elected MEP for Connaught/Ulster in 1999.

She also got the support of five county councils to run for the presidency in 1997, but finished third.

Claims have emerged during the campaign about a family feud with relatives in America.

Dana made shock revelations during a live TV debate that malicious allegations were due to arise in the media following a court case over ownership of copyright.

Her campaign team also claimed she had been targeted in a sabotage attack after a tyre on her campaign car blew out - claims Gardai and tyre experts ruled out.

Dana is expected to be the first candidate eliminated.


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