independent

Saturday 15 December 2018

Wicklow endorses Michael D Higgins

Presidential election and referendum on blasphemy

Mary Fogarty

President Michael D Higgin's Wicklow campaign manager, Ian McGahon, had just hit the hay last Friday night when he got a phone call from the President thanking him and all the team for their efforts over the past weeks.

'You don't expect to get a call at half ten at night from the President of Ireland!' he said.

County Wicklow exceeded the national average of 55.81, with 63 per cent of the poll giving their first preference to the incumbent.

The runner-up Peter Casey got 17 per cent of the votes cast in Wicklow and received 23.25 of the vote nationally.

Delgany resident Seán Gallagher and his wife voted in Charlesland Sports Centre on Friday morning.

Mr Gallagher received 6.9 per cent of his fellow Wicklow redidents' votes.

There was a total of 488 votes which had been very clearly deliberately spoiled. Remarks written on those sheets included 'rubbish', 'no to everybody', 'all useless', and 'no to abortion' written across them, as well as a sheet with lines drawn across each candidate's section.

Otherwise there were maybe 15 or 16 votes spoiled in error.

'I'm absolutely delighted with the result,' said Mr McGahon on Saturday at the count centre. 'It's a huge endorsement for Michael D here in County Wicklow.'

Ian said that the campaign had been very positive.

'We got a great reception all over the county. It was an independent campaign this time so we had supporters from a number of parties too.

Mr McGahon said that there has been a huge amount of warmth towards President Higgins.

'He's such a people person. He gives great hugs!' he said, adding that the president is an all-rounder. 'He's a teacher, a philosopher, a political scientist, and he just has a warmth of humanity.'

Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly has said that Peter Casey's comments prior to the presidential election were 'a stunt'.

The Fianna Fáil health spokesman was speaking at the count centre in Greystones.

'I have no idea what Peter Casey's actual feelings are on Travellers. To me, it was a stunt. He lives in America and will have seen it work very well for Donald Trump,' said Deputy Donnelly.

'There are ongoing and real issues which need to be worked through in the settled and Traveller communities.

'We all know that and that's going to take time, it's going to take many years to do.

'The one candidate who put themselves as clearly anti-establishment got a bump.

'I think had any of the candidates done that in any other way they would have got a bump.'

Deputy Donnelly said that Michael D Higgins has received a ringing endorsement, with the highest vote ever in history for an Irish presidential candidate, 'for a man who represents decency, inclusiveness, equality and compassion'.

Minister for Health Simon Harris, who also visited the Wicklow County Centre on Saturday, said that if anything good is to come from the controversy, he would hope that it is a greater dialogue between the Travelling community and the State.

'I can't speak for Peter Casey's motives or why he decided to say what he did.

'But I can speak as Minister for health in acknowledging the fact that when we look at the Travelling community by any metric, this is a group in which we need to do an awful lot more work with when it comes to health outcomes, mental health, suicide rates, life expectancy,' he said.

'The Travelling Community remains one of the most marginalised in this country.

Minister Harris said that it had been a 'really lovely campaign', involving people on a cross-party basis, from lots of political traditions and across the political spectrum.

'They said that Michael D Higgins does our country proud at home and abroad and we'd like him to continue for another seven years.'

Bray People

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