After what can only be described as a bizarre election campaign, the early tallies ahead of the official results of the vote count say that Michael D Higgins is on course to be re-elected as the President of Ireland.
n Ipsos MRBI exit poll for The Irish Times on Friday night showed, as expected, a firm lead for Higgins, despite a strong showing for the Independent candidate Peter Casey, with him reportedly claiming 1 in 5 votes. This comes on the back of his controversial comments in the run-up to polling day, in which he said Travellers should not be recognised as an ethnic minority because they are “basically people camping in someone else’s land”. Rather than back down over his comments, Casey insisted Ireland was now a “melting pot”, and that one group shouldn’t be chosen as “special” by having their ethnicity officially recognised.
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Regardless, the poll and early projects that Mr Higgins will comfortably win 56-58 per cent of the vote on the first count.
Seán Gallagher failed to make an impact, according to the poll, which predicts he will finish with just 7 per cent of the vote.
Sinn Féin candidate Liadh Ní Riada will take 8 per cent of the vote, Pieta House founder and Senator Joan Freeman 6 per cent, while Independent candidate Gavin Duffy with just 2 per cent of the vote.
Voting turnout was low across the country; Turnout in Dublin was reportedly half of that for the abortion referendum earlier this year and it was similarly low in all counties. This was to be expected reflecting a lack of public enthusiasm for the contest - very much evident throughout the campaign.
The vote count continues throughout the day.
Counting for the blasphemy referendum will commence once a winner has been declared in the presidential election but the exit poll suggests the vote to delete the reference to blasphemy in the Constitution was overwhelmingly passed as expected; 69 per cent of voters have backed the proposal.