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I may be moving to the Aras but my heart will stay in Galway -- Michael D

PRESIDENT-elect Michael D Higgins's triumphant homecoming to Galway was a farewell of sorts as he prepares to take up residence in the Aras.

Mr Higgins told thousands of well-wishers his "heart is and will forever be" in Galway. However, for the next seven years, he will be living in the Phoenix Park.

More than 5,000 people gathered at the bottom of Eyre Square to welcome Mr Higgins back to the city after a lengthy and gruelling election campaign.



Grateful

He told the ecstatic crowd he was unable to personally thank the more than one million people who had voted for him, but was deeply grateful for their support.

He said: "I am delighted to be back home in Galway, the place I first came to as a 19-year-old in 1960. It's here where my heart is and will forever be.

"I want to say a very sincere thank you for this welcome home -- it is a wonderful welcome home. It is the place to where I return and where I will always return because it is of Galway that I am.

"I want to say to all of you that when I take my oath of office I will do my absolute best to use all of my abilities for all of the people of Ireland.

"These abilities have been greatly enhanced by my time in Galway. I love Galway, this great city," he said.

The Labour candidate topped the poll in impressive fashion following last Thursday's vote, comprehensively beating Independent Sean Gallagher into second place.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness was a distant third.

Mr Higgins arrived at the event under escort, with his wife Sabina and family, and was joined on the podium by Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore.

Also present were Mayor of Galway Hildegarde Naughton (FG) and his successor in the Dail, Labour TD Derek Nolan.

He added: "I love Ireland and I love its people and I pay tribute to the work of change and transformation that has already been done.

"There is no limit to the possibilities."

comurphy@hnews.ie