Ex-Culture Minister Elected As New Ireland’s New President

Posted October 29th, 2011 at 6:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Irish poet and human rights activist Michael Higgins has been elected Ireland's president for the next seven years.

Election officials said Saturday that Mr. Higgins won nearly 57 percent of the vote in the final count.

The 70-year-old former culture minister for the Labor Party defeated independent businessman and reality television celebrity Sean Gallagher, and Sinn Fein's candidate, former IRA commander Martin McGuinness.

Gallagher, who was his main rival, conceded victory Friday.

McGuinness, who is deputy first minister of British-ruled Northern Ireland and was running on a ticket of unity for the island, has sent his congratulations to Mr. Higgins.

The left-wing politician will succeed Mary McAleese, who spent 14 years in the largely ceremonial post.

The Irish president wields no government power beyond the ability to refer potentially unconstitutional legislation to Ireland's Supreme Court. He also represents the country abroad.

The new president will be inaugurated November 11.

Voter cast ballots Thursday to elect the president and vote on two referendums. They voted in favor of giving the government authority to cut the pay of judges. But the referendum on giving lawmakers the power to conduct fact-finding inquiries was narrowly defeated.