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Michael D romps home

IT’S Michael D Higgins for president

The 70-year-old was today preparing to take up residence in Aras an Uachtarain after romping home in the election as Sean Gallagher’s vote imploded.

As ballot boxes were opened today it became quickly evident that Mr Higgins was well ahead of former frontrunner Gallagher and Martin McGuinness was limping in on third place.

Mr Gallagher's vote collapsed in the wake of the controversy over the Frontline debate.

Independent David Norris was among the first to congratulate Mr Higgins, saying: “I'd be very happy to be an Irishman under the presidency of Michael D Higgins.”

It was a disastrous day for Fine Gael and their candidate Gay Mitchell. The party was facing an internal crisis as Mitchell struggled to get 6pc in Dublin and finished well behind ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness. The party was facing an internal crisis as Mitchell struggled to get 6pc in Dublin and finished well behind former IRA commander Martin McGuinness.

Mr Mitchell was as low as 5pc with nearly half of the boxes counted in his own constituency of Dublin South Central.

This afternoon Mr Higgins’ director of elections, Joe Costello, said that he was “very optimistic” about the result.

“With 40pc of the votes counted, Michael D is leading the field everywhere except in Donegal, where Gallagher is ahead. But around the city and around the country, Michael D is ahead everywhere,” he told the Herald.

“Of course we're very optimistic now that Michael D is so far ahead in so many places. It's interesting that Gallagher was being beaten 2:1 by Michael D in his own town of Blackrock, Co Louth, where he lives. That's a great indication.”

Sean Gallagher was facing the possibility of a third-place finish with his campaign team admitting the “omens aren't looking that great”.

His spokesman said: “Dublin is a very challenging constituency. I always felt myself that it would be challenging convincing middle-class Dublin, they tend to be a very unforgiving bunch.”

The only women in the field of seven candidates barely registered as the boxes were opened. Mary Davis and Dana Rosemary Scallon are now likely to be stuck with massive bills as they fail to secure enough votes to reclaim their campaign expenses.

A spokesperson for Dana admitted she suffered a “disappointing result”. “Dana has always had a niche market and there's no doubt she was seen as a metaphor for the Catholic Church and she didn't want that. She really believes in what she's doing. This isn't the end.”

Labour supporters were preparing to celebrate what could be a momentous day for the party, with its candidate in the Dublin West by-election also in contention for victory.

Mr Higgins was streets ahead of his rivals in count centres right across the country and was outpolling Sean Gallagher by two-to-one in places.

The Labour candidate is even far outpolling Mr Gallagher in his own home town of Blackrock Co Louth.

David Norris looks set to win at least 10pc support, but is well behind the race leaders. He was the first to publicly congratulate: “President Michael D Hig

gins”. “I'd like to be the first to congratulate Michael D Higgins. It' a good day for Ireland. Like myself he's a little bit of a maverick,” the senator said.

A spokesman for Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell told the Herald this morning that there was profound disappointment at the results.

“Higgins is way ahead with 50pc of the boxes counted. Higgins is doing very strongly in Fine Gael heartlands like Sandymount.

“Obviously, Fine Gael voters decided to vote strategically when the polls said it was a two-horse race between Higgins and Gallagher. They decided to vote for Higgins in order to beat Gallagher,” he said.

Sinn Fein TD Aengus O’Snodaigh said Gay Mitchell was doing woefully in his own former Dail constituency of Dublin South-Central, where he would have been expected to have done well.

“In one box in Mitchell’s old constituency, Higgins got 77 votes compared to just four votes for Mitchell. Overall, Mitchell was lying in second or third place in some boxes.”