Ireland's President elect Michael D Higgins celebrates his victory with wife, Sabina Coyne
Thousands of people have celebrated the success of President-elect Michael D Higgins during a homecoming in Galway city.
Young and old braved the weather during an open air event on Eyre Square.
The 70-year-old Labour veteran, his wife Sabina and party leader Eamon Gilmore were among the guests of honour at the massive street party.
Mr Higgins said: “I think the important thing now is for us to have a celebration and then with determination move in to our common shared different future.
“And I hope at the end of the seven years people will say I have been of some inspirational value to them at home in terms of inclusively and abroad I look forward to representing Ireland.”
His wife, who cried when her husband’s win was formally announced in Dublin Castle, said the election turnout and his support was huge.
“I’m feeling so happy for Michael, myself and for the Irish people,” she said.
“I think they said a big yes and everywhere people were weeping and crying and celebrating.”
Mr Higgins secured more than a million votes after transfers from four counts. It was the largest total in a presidential election.
The poet, professor and campaigner, will be inaugurated on November 11.
His victory came after one of the most remarkable political comebacks ever.
He seized an unprecedented 15% swing in support following the spectacular implosion of his biggest rival, independent Sean Gallagher, on live television in the final days of the campaign.
The former TD vowed to lead the country in a necessary transformation away from values based on wealth and said his seven-year term as head of state will be defined by efforts to turn inclusion into reality.
Mr Higgins declared his triumph was built on a left-leaning campaign while his seven-year term will be marked by inclusion, ideas and transformation.
Jubilant scenes in Eyre Square. (Pic: PA)
The 70-year-old’s resounding victory was obvious within an hour of ballot boxes being opened in a massive voter swing just days after favourite Sean Gallagher publicly derailed during a TV debate.
“I feel a little overwhelmed,” Mr Higgins said.
“I’m very, very happy. It is something I prepared for, something I thought about for a long while.
“I am very glad as well that it is a presidency built on a campaign that emphasised ideas. I hope it will be a presidency that will enable everybody to be part of and proud of.”
Mr Higgins secured the victory for Labour – the second in a day as the party edged towards a by-election win – after the other six candidates conceded defeat.
He took 40 per cent of the poll, 701,101 votes out of 1,77 million, on the first count.
Mr Gallagher, the opinion poll topper with a 15-point margin four days before the vote, saw his support vanish to 28 per cent in a stunning defeat blamed on his ties to Fianna Fáil, the party most associated with Ireland’s economic demise.
But the businessman refused to criticise.
“These are campaigns and this is the nature of a campaign,” the former political fund raiser said
Eamon Gilmore, Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) and Labour leader, said it had been an honour to nominate Mr Higgins for the job.
“This is a good day for the Labour Party. “I’m really happy for him. I’m really delighted that he succeeded,” Mr Gilmore said.
Runner-up Mr Gallagher would not blame the man who derailed his seemingly unassailable campaign on live TV last Monday.
The businessman – a former fund raiser for the Fianna Fáil party which was widely blamed for the country’s economic woes — ran into a storm of controversy amid allegations he was a “bag man” soliciting and collecting donations.
Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, who was ran third in the poll securing a tactical victory, dropped the bombshell that Mr Gallagher had requested and personally received a €5,000 cheque from a businessman with a conviction for tax fraud and fuel smuggling.
With his wife Trish by his side, Mr Gallagher admitted it had been an enduring campaign before he paid tribute to Mr Higgins.
Two independents at the bottom of the polls, Mary Davis, who headed the Irish division of Special Olympics, and Dana Rosemary Scallon, former Eurovision winner and Eurosceptic MEP, were excluded on the first count.
But Gay Mitchell had the worst performance in history by a candidate from Fine Gael.
His failure to register left him vying with Senator David Norris, a former Trinity professor and Joycean scholar, for the fourth and fifth spots. The Senator was first candidate to declare Mr Higgins’ win.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter was again forced to deny allegations that Fine Gael failed to offer its full support to presidential flop Mr Mitchell.
He said he did not think Mr Mitchell’s defeat had anything to do with the party, saying the presidential election is more about personality than politics.
“It’s a very different election. It’s a personality election,” he said.
Meanwhile, Government plans to give politicians radically beefed up powers of investigation have been defeated, dealing a huge blow to the coalition.
While a referendum to cut judges’ pay was unanimously supported, a second vote on whether to allow the Oireachtas hold major inquiries into matters of public importance was rejected.
It had been opposed by eight former attorneys general.
Alan Shatter, the Justice Minister who championed the defeated reform, denied he had been arrogant in dismissing the advice of the leading lawyers.
“When something goes wrong no-one is ever criticised, everything comes down to systemic failure,” he said.
The public voted the planned reform down 53% against.