Is the man from Dragon's Den Ireland's next president?
He was leading the polling, but a damaging allegation this week could have hurt Seán Gallagher's chances of becoming Ireland's next president.
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Michael D. Higgins, candidate of the Labor party, a minority partner in government, is expected to do well and had been the front-runner before Gallagher surged ahead in opinion polls – a status he now hopes to recover in the actual vote.Skip to next paragraph
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Rounding out the field
Sinn Féin's McGuinness is tipped to come third, a showing that would be a major victory for the left-leaning party linked to the now disbanded IRA. Mr. McGuinness's record as a leader of the IRA has been the subject of much scrutiny during the campaign.
McGuinness is currently deputy first minister in the power-sharing assembly in Northern Ireland. His move into politics in the Republic of Ireland is seen as symbolic of the party's growing ambitions south of the border.
At the beginning of the campaign, opinion polls were led by David Norris, a noted gay rights campaigner who forced Ireland to decriminalize homosexuality, suing the country in the European Court of Human Rights.
But Mr. Norris's campaign faltered after it was revealed he had written letters to the Israeli judiciary, pleading leniency on behalf of his former lover Ezra Nawi, who had been convicted of the statutory rape of a Palestinian teenager.
Ireland, still reeling from a series of child abuse scandals involving the Catholic church, turned its back on Norris, a hitherto popular orator and public figure known more for his loud celebrations of James Joyce than for politics, despite having been a member of Ireland's upper house of parliament, the Seanad (senate), for 25 years.
Ms. Scallon added some last-minute drama to the campaign when her husband, Damien Scallon, suggested that a near-miss on the highway may have been caused by someone intentionally slashing the tires of their car in an attempt to "injure us or murder us."
Experts say the damage was likely caused by driving on a flat tire and police have dismissed the possibility of foul play.
Jeff Colley, who lives in suburban Dublin, voted today at 2 p.m. local time.
"I don't really think it's important. I'm more voting against someone than for one. There's a sense that the president represents the country, so you don't want someone who's an embarrassment," he said.
On the same ballot, voters are also being given two referendum questions: should the government be able to lower judges' pay and should the parliament be given additional powers to hold inquires.
The governing Fine Gael and Labor parties have urged a 'yes' vote on both questions.
Polls close at 10 p.m. local time. Results are expected Saturday.