Brendan Howlin: President Higgins will 'challenge us to be the best we can be'

Brendan Howlin: President Higgins will 'challenge us to be the best we can be'

Labour leader Brendan Howlin championed Michael D Higgins near-certain re-election as president, saying the "national grandfather" is "someone who will ask the best of us and challenge us to be the best we can be".

Mr Howlin made the comment as he separately hit out at presidential runner-up Peter Casey by saying he is not Ireland's answer to US president Donald Trump "because Donald Trump won".

Speaking to reporters at the national convention centre count in Dublin's city centre, Mr Howlin said Mr Higgins's likely landslide 54% victory shows he remains among Ireland's most popular politicians.

He said he is like a "national grandfather" who "people genuinely have a warmth towards", and is "someone who will ask the best of us and challenge us to be the best we can be".

During the same press conference, Mr Howlin said rival Mr Casey is "another candidate" who has ignored "social solidarity".

While recognising Mr Casey's projected 21% poll result, Mr Howlin rejected claims Mr Casey is Ireland's answer to Donald Trump by saying "Donald Trump won".

Mr Howlin also criticised Mr Casey's views on the Travelling community.

However, like Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, he stopped short of labelling the remarks racist, saying they were instead "opportunistic".

Meanwhile, Mr Howlin also said he is "hopefully" for a "Michael D bounce" for Labour in the upcoming opinion polls due to the success of his presidential re-election campaign.

However, he accepted it is important to see the vote in context as Labour as a party remains on just 7% in the opinion polls.

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