A former culture minister and part-time poet from Ireland's junior coalition party was set to be elected president, beating an ex-IRA commander and a reality TV star, a first count of votes showed on Friday as his main rival conceded defeat.

Labour's Michael D. Higgins, 70, a critic of Israel's Gaza blockade and a mainstay of human rights demonstrations for decades, won 40 percent of first preference votes putting him 11 percent clear of nearest rival, businessman Sean Gallagher.

A full result is due later on Friday or early Saturday.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Louise Ireland)