Exit polls: McAleese next Irish president
Would be first leader from Northern Ireland
October 30, 1997
Web posted at: 8:29 p.m. EST (0129 GMT)
DUBLIN, Ireland (CNN) -- Mary McAleese, a lawyer and
professor from Belfast, will be the next president of
Ireland, according to exit polls conducted during Thursday's
Irish television projected that McAleese, backed by Ireland's
largest political party, Fianna Fail, will take 46 percent of
the vote, compared to 32 percent for Mary Banotti, a member
of the European parliament and Fine Gael, the nation's
Three other candidates trailed in single digits. Actual
counting of the ballots won't begin until Friday morning.
If McAleese wins, as expected, she will be the first Irish
president from Northern Ireland.
Though Northern Ireland is British territory and not under
control of the Irish republic, the Irish constitution allows
people who hail from the north to claim citizenship and run
in Irish elections. However, residents of Northern Ireland
were not allowed to vote Thursday.
Four women in the race
McAleese also would be the second woman in a row to capture
the presidency in this traditional Roman Catholic society.
Mary Robinson broke the gender barrier in 1990, becoming the
country's first female president.
This time around, four of the five candidates in the race for
the largely ceremonial post were women.
Joining McAleese and Banotti in the field was Rosemary
Scallon, better known as the noted Irish singer Dana, who is
originally from Northern Ireland but now lives in the U.S.
state of Alabama. She stressed traditional Catholic values in
her campaign but pulled only 9 percent of the vote, according
to exit polls. Also running was anti-nuclear campaigner Adi
A L S O :
Detailed map of Dublin
Derek Nally, the only man in the race, rounded out the
About 2.7 million voters were eligible to go to the polls.
Projections of turnout showed it at just 40 percent, which
would be the lowest ever recorded.
On election day, voters in the capital, Dublin, faced the
added complication of snarled traffic from a taxi strike.
Under the complicated Irish election system, voters pick both
a top choice and a second choice for president. Trailing
candidates in the first count are then eliminated, and the
second choices are distributed to pick a winner.
Pre-election surveys suggested that McAleese would pick up
crucial support as weaker candidates were eliminated.
Robinson gave post new influence
Filling a position a little like a monarch -- albeit with
respectability instead of splendor -- Robinson gave the post
newfound influence, personifying Irish values and aspirations
and projecting them abroad. She stepped down as president to
become the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Since the last time a male won the Irish presidency, the
country has changed profoundly. An economic boom has created
a cosmopolitan, sophisticated Ireland, diverse and
Europe-oriented. A country whose people often emigrated
abroad to escape poverty now welcomes back 15,000 expatriates
"It's only in recent years that we've had economic success,
social success, success in the arts, success in sporting
achievements. And all of this has contributed to a huge
psychological renaissance," said Gerard Hogan of Trinity
"A dynamic and exciting campaign reflects the fact that there
is a lot going on in a very diverse and complicated and
The sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants in
Northern Ireland emerged as a hot issue late in the race.
McAleese was accused of being a tacit supporter of Sinn Fein,
the political wing of the Irish Republican Army -- a charge
"I don't believe that anything that has happened on this
island politically justifies the spilling of one drop of
blood," she said.
Correspondent Richard Blystone and Reuters contributed to