Michael D Higgins tops the poll in County Donegal

Leroy Wright
October 30, 2018

Reacting to the election result, Fine Gael's Deputy - Joe Carey said Michael D Higgins is a president the country can be proud of.

Official election results are expected on Saturday evening.

After an at times bruising campaign, the five defeated candidates were united in congratulating returning president Michael D Higgins.

Campaigners in Ireland celebrated the end of a "medieval" ban on blasphemy on Saturday, after voters overwhelmingly backed removing the offence from the constitution in a referendum.

"Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded stupid god who creates a world so full of injustice and pain?" the actor said.

"It is important that we also do not gloss over the fact that one candidate sought to exploit prejudice against a small and marginalized community", the group said in a statement welcoming Higgins' re-election.

Independent candidate Peter Casey finished second on 342,727 votes.

The Taoiseach said: "A lot of people voted for Mr Casey but he is going to get less than one of four votes so we should not lose sight of the actual result here".

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Turnout is expected to be low across most of the country and that seems to be how things are unfolding so far this morning.

Mr Casey saw a surge in support after he accused Irish Travellers of camping on other people's land and criticised the refusal by some to take state-provided homes.

If the exit polls are correct, Mr Higgins is likely to be easily re-elected on the first count for a second seven-year term.

The exit polls suggest that the referendum will be passed by a significant majority.

Opinion polls throughout the campaign consistently placed Mr Higgins as the favourite to win, despite being plagued by questions over presidential expenses.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Higgins said Ireland is at a time of transformation and the momentum of empathy, compassion, inclusion and solidarity must be recognised and celebrated.

"The version of Ireland that can best represent our people at home and overseas is one which draws on traditional genius and contemporary creativity, deep connections and new solidarities, respect and transformation".

However some organisations have publicly expressed their views, including both the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland, who both said the blasphemy laws are "obsolete".

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