Irish presidential election: polls close

Buncrana voter A voter in Buncrana in County Donegal casts his ballot paper

Polling across the Irish Republic has closed after 15 hours of voting for the country's ninth head of state.

Turnout is reported to be about 50%, down from around 70% in the general election in February.

There are seven candidates in the race to succeed Mary McAleese, who has been president since 1997.

The president, who serves as a ceremonial head of state, is elected for a seven-year term and can be re-elected only once.

The seven candidates are Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell, Michael D Higgins of the Labour Party, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness as well as independents Sean Gallagher, Dana Rosemary Scallon, Mary Davis and David Norris.

The winner is expected to be announced on Saturday afternoon.

The campaign for the presidency has been beset by controversy with several of the seven candidates facing some controversy about their past careers.

The election comes as the country continues its bid to recover from the worst recession in living memory.

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