Michael D Higgins has won the Labour Party nomination to run as its candidate for the presidential election.
The party president defeated former party adviser Fergus Finlay and former senator Kathleen O’Meara at a convention in Dublin.
Mr Higgins’ wife Sabina ran up and kissed her husband as the result was announced in the Mansion House.
The 70-year-old polled 37 votes, compared to 18 for Mr Finlay and seven for Ms O’Meara The secret ballot had been taken by members of the Parliamentary Labour Party, including TDs, senators, MEPs and members of its executive board.
Mr Higgins is the first official candidate in the race to succeed President Mary McAleese in the autumn.
He was first elected to the Seanad in 1973 and to the Dáil in 1981. He served as minister for arts, culture and the gaeltacht from 1993 to 1997, and was previously mayor of Galway twice.
He retired as a TD for Galway West ahead of the general election earlier this year to concentrate on his presidential campaign
An academic, Mr Higgins is also a keen poet, author and dedicated human rights activist.
He became the first recipient of the Sean MacBride Peace Prize of the International Peace Bureau in Helsinki in 1992 in recognition of his work for peace and justice.
Mr Higgins paid tribute to the other candidates but said he was confident he had a majority after holding lengthy meetings with party members.
Mr Finlay, chief executive of children’s charity Barnardo’s, was an adviser to Labour’s Dick Spring in the ’80s and ’90s before leaving the party in 1997.
Meanwhile former journalist Ms O’Meara has been a county and town councillor for Nenagh, Co Tipperary, and was head of advocacy and communications with the Irish Cancer Society in 2008.
“I am very honoured and very pleased and I intend to have an energetic campaign that will bring me all over the country,” said Mr Higgins.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said the presidential campaign would not be between the parties but between the candidates.
He said the Labour Party would not be claiming ownership of the candidate selected because the party respected the independence of the presidency.