Labour Candidate Michael D. Higgins is set to become Ireland’s President, having defeated a field of six other candidates.

BBC reported that Higgins has gained 40 percent of first preference votes, thereby virtually guaranteeing victory.

Independent candidate Sean Gallagher, who at one time was favored to win the poll, has conceded the election to Higgins. Gallagher, a former member of the Fianna Fail party, has called Gallaher to congratulate him on his triumph.

He will have my full support as president and I sincerely thank him for a positive campaign,” Gallagher told Irish media.

His slogan stated that he would be a president to be proud of and I believe he will be that president.

Micheál Martin, leader of the opposition Fianna Fail party has also delivered his congratulations to Higgins.

I have known Michael D Higgins for many years and he will make an excellent president and ambassador for Ireland, he said.

In becoming the ninth Irish president in history, Higgins will replace the incumbent Mary McAleese, who had served as president since 1997.

However, voter turnout was only about 50 percent, significantly below the 70 percent figure recorded in the February general election, which swept Fianna Fail from power in the wake of the public’s anger with an EU/IMF bailout and government austerity program.

Fianna Fail did not field a candidate in this election.

The president of Ireland serves a seven-year term and largely holds a ceremonial position.

Higgins, 71, is the former Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and is widely acclaimed as a scholar.