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Higgins wins Irish presidential election

By Peter Taggart, For CNN
updated 3:24 PM EDT, Sat October 29, 2011
Newly elected Irish President Michael Higgins smiles during the official announcement of the election results.
Newly elected Irish President Michael Higgins smiles during the official announcement of the election results.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Michael D. Higgins is elected Ireland's new president
  • He is to be Ireland's ninth head of state
  • President Mary McAleese has been head of state 14 years
  • She completed two seven-year terms

DUBLIN, Ireland (CNN) -- Michael D. Higgins, a 70-year-old poet and politician, was elected Ireland's new president on Saturday.

Considered an elder statesman, the Irish Labour Party candidate-turned-president elect is a former government minister.

He is to be Ireland's ninth head of state and is scheduled to be inaugurated on November 11, one day after President Mary McAleese leaves office.

McAleese has been head of state 14 years, completing two seven-year terms.

The other six candidates -- including former Irish Republican Army commander Martin McGuinness -- have all conceded defeat.

McGuinness's campaign had been dogged by questions about his past ties to the IRA, an armed group that fought against British authorities in Northern Ireland but has since renounced violence.

He had been consistently third in opinion polls, while businessman and reality TV star Sean Gallagher had been vying alongside Higgins for the top spot.

Critics blamed Gallagher's performance in the country's final televised debate for his collapse in the polls.

McGuinness is expected to return to his role as Northern Ireland's deputy first minister.

The long counting process started Friday with Higgins confirmed as the winner late Saturday.

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