Poetry News

Irish Poet Wins Presidency

By Harriet Staff

Michael Higgins, "70-year-old poet and former arts minister" will be Ireland's next president, according to this article from Herald Post.

"In the last hour I've called Michael D Higgins to congratulate him on his performance and his success in this election," Sean Gallagher, an independent candidate and businessman, said in a statement.

"He will have my full support as president and I sincerely thank him for a positive campaign.

"His slogan stated that he would be a president to be proud of and I believe he will be that president."

With results in from 13 of Ireland's 43 constituencies, Higgins has 43 per cent of valid first preference votes, with Mr Gallagher on 23 per cent.

And, later:

Higgins will succeed Belfast-born Mary McAleese, who has served the maximum of two seven-year terms as the figurehead of the republic which required an 85 billion euro ($112.91 billion) international bailout last year.

He is a veteran intellectual who has written two volumes of poetry and has been a lawmaker since the early 1980s.

This, from Huffington Post, offered more detail on Higgins. It was written before the election was final:

Higgins, 70, was mobbed by well-wishers and journalists as he arrived at the Dublin Castle count center. Minutes later, electoral officials announced he had received 39.6 percent of all first-preference votes to take an unassailable lead atop the field of seven candidates.

"I'm very glad that it was so decisive. It will enable me to be a president for all of the people," Higgins said of his commanding share of votes from Thursday's election.

Higgins is widely known in Ireland simply as "Michael D," befitting his status as one of the country's most liked and instantly recognized politicians. He stands just 5 foot 4, his elfin features complimented with a much-parodied high voice infused with his rural County Clare roots.

Higgins, a former University College Galway lecturer in sociology and politics, is credited as an intellectual heavyweight of Irish politics with three published collections of poetry to his credit and a four-decade record of promoting homegrown arts, literature, film and the native Gaelic language. Unlike other English-only candidates and most of the nation, Higgins spoke the native Irish tongue fluently on the campaign trail.

He also has traveled the world defending left-wing human rights cases. He is one of Ireland's most ardent critics of U.S. foreign policy, particularly in Central America, Iraq and Afghanistan, and of Israel's policies versus the Palestinians.

His socialism came to the fore on the campaign trail as he condemned the get-rich-quick excesses of Ireland's lost Celtic Tiger boom economy, arguing its narcissism and greed left the country mired in debt and unemployment.

Originally Published: October 31st, 2011