Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey has warned that the opinion polls giving President Michael D Higgins a significant lead in the run-up to next Friday’s Presidential election could lead to complacency among his supporters.

“While the polls look positive for Michael D, we cannot be complacent. We need to keep up the momentum and make sure everyone turns out to give him their number one vote on Friday,” he said.

“Fine Gael is committed to supporting his re-election unconditionally and we are encouraging everyone in Clare to lend him their fullest support. Over the last seven years he has been a model President who has brought great dignity to the Office and earned great affection from the nation.

“Never slow to proclaim the strength of his Clare roots, he is a strong unifying force for our country, a great ambassador at home and abroad, a caring and compassionate advocate for our people and a president in whom we can all be proud.

“All his life, Michael D Higgins has been an advocate for justice and progress. He was at the forefront of campaigns for progressive change on issues such as the introduction of divorce, access to contraception and equal rights for women. He also opposed the introduction of the 8th amendment of the Constitution in 1983.”

He led the 1916 centenary process with great dignity and sensitivity and deepened public discourse on remembering the past.This experience and leadership is crucial for the next seven years, with the forthcoming commemorations of the War of Independence and the Civil War,” Deputy Carey explained.

“For decades he championed issues including decent employment, public housing provision, the rights of people with disabilities and ethical standards for public office holders. As a consistent voice for equality, he fought for elimination of poverty and a ‘citizenship floor’ of basic rights and participation below which no citizen should fall.

Michael D has always maintained a strong interest in justice and peace worldwide.

“He campaigned against nuclear proliferation in the 1980s, has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with human rights campaigners, often when they were persecuted or imprisoned, and done all in his power to advance democracy and human rights across the world.

“In 1992 he was awarded the first Seán McBride International Peace Prize. Appointed as Ireland’s first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht in 1992, Michael D made brave decisions which continue to benefit Ireland. In 1996, he became President of the European Council of Culture Ministers.

“His achievements include the establishment of TG4, new public museums and a network of local arts venues and theatres right across Ireland. He re-established the Film Board, helping to drive the rejuvenation of film, television and animation production in Ireland, creating thousands of jobs in a sector which continues to flourish. He also gave support to Lyric FM and community radio.

“He led the revitalisation of our canal networks, refurbishing the Royal and Grand canals and linking our waterways with canals in Northern Ireland. He also took the important decision to end Section 31 censorship as a vital step towards debate and peace-building on our shared island,” Deputy Carey concluded.