President Michael D Higgins vows to ‘represent Ireland’s voice’ over next seven years

Casey polls strongly to finish second while voters back removal of blasphemy offence

The President Michael D Higgins has said that in re-electing him for a second term voters have chosen hope over "any exploitation of division or fear" and promised to be a president for "all the people".

Speaking in Dublin Castle after his re-election on the first count was confirmed, Mr Higgins said the Republic was in “a time of transformation” and he pointed to a “momentum for empathy, compassion, inclusion and solidarity which must be recognised and celebrated”.

He acknowledged “the offer of public service that my fellow candidates have made in standing for this important role as president of Ireland” and said had been “deeply moved” by all the support he has got across party lines.

“Over the next seven years, I will represent your voice, Ireland’s voice, as we face challenges that are not local,” he said.

Mr Higgins received 822,566 votes, 56 per cent of the total poll to secure another seven years in Áras an Uachtaráin. It is the highest vote ever in any of the eight presidential elections in the history of the State.

Independent candidate Peter Casey polled surprisingly well, taking 23 per cent of votes.

Businessman Seán Gallagher, who 29 per cent of voters backed in 2011, performed poorly, receiving 6.5 per cent of votes.

Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada was fourth on 6.4 per cent, with Senator Joan Freeman on 6 per cent. The third of the Dragons' Den panellists Gavin Duffy finished last on 2 per cent.

Turnout in the presidential referendum was just 44 per cent, making it one of the lowest since the office was introduced.

Mr Higgins won in all constituencies with Mr Casey running him closest in Donegal with fewer than 3,000 votes between them.

Mr Duffy received just 203 votes in Dublin Central, about 1 per cent of the vote.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar lauded Mr Higgins on a historic victory saying he was very happy with the outcome.

Blasphemy

Voters also supported the proposal to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.

Results officially announced on Saturday evening showed 65 per cent of voters were in favour, with 35 per cent against.

A total of 951,650 people voted in favour of the proposal, with 515,808 voting against it.

Voters were asked whether the word blasphemy should be removed from Article 40.6.1.i . The article bans “the publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter”, offences “which shall be punishable in accordance with law”.

The result was closest in Donegal, with 51.53 per cent in favour of removal and 48.47 per cent against.

The highest Yes vote was in Dublin Bay South where 76.5 per cent of people voted to remove the blasphemy offence.