Gilmore pays tribute to Higgins
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said tonight he was very happy Michael D Higgins would be elected as the ninth president of Ireland.
Speaking in Dublin Castle this evening, Mr Gilmore said the election result was a great tribute to a man who had given his entire life to public life and who had done so much to make people feel part of Irish society, so much on human rights and so much internationally.
He said Mr Higgins had run “a great campaign” which was positive, which had set out his vision for the presidency and how he saw the future of the country. He had not engaged in any negative campaigning, and was consistent in this throughout the whole campaign.
Mr Higgins had also won considerable support beyond the traditional support of the Labour Party.
The Tánaiste said it appeared that Labour voters had come out in large numbers to vote for Mr Higgins and he paid tribute to the party's organisation, to its staff, members and director of elections Joe Costello who had “worked so hard”.
He added: “It's a great day for Michael D Higgins, for [his wife] Sabina and for their family.”
Asked how it would feel to have a Labour president for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising in 2016, Mr Gilmore said: “We won't have a Labour president, we will have a president for all the people.
“From the day that the Labour Party nominated Michael D Higgins as candidate, I made it clear that we would respect Michael D Higgins's independence as a candidate, just as we would respect his independence as president of the country.”
Mr Gilmore said the party had been honoured to nominate Mr Higgins. “We are very proud of him. He has been part of the Labour family for all of his political life," he said.
He said he believed this had been reflected in the vote, which was much greater than the party had ever received.
With regard to Seán Gallagher's campaign, Mr Gilmore said he believed what had caused the drop in the independent candidate's vote was the replies he had given to the questions raised by the audience during the RTE Frontline debate, and in interviews afterwards.
“I must say I had always been a bit surprised at the level of showing that Seán Gallagher was having in the opinion polls, because the response that we were getting in campaigning was much stronger for Michael D Higgins.”
Mr Gilmore said during campaigning last Saturday, he saw a response from members of the public to Mr Higgins greater than any he had ever seen for an election candidate.