Betting on politics: the Irish presidency

Michael Higgins © Getty images
Higgins is running for re-election

I haven’t really covered Irish politics in this column, but the upcoming presidential election looks an interesting opportunity. Unlike America, the Irish presidency is largely symbolic, with real power residing with the taoiseach and parliament. This year incumbent Michael Higgins (who won in the second round in 2011) is running for re-election, and seeking to be the first president to seek two terms in office since Éamon de Valera in 1966.

Both Ladbrokes and Paddy Power are offering odds on the winner. Paddy Power has the best odds on Higgins at 1/6 (85.7%), but Ladbrokes is the best on four of the other candidates: Seán Gallagher at 13/2 (13.3%), Gavin Duffy at 18/1 (5.3%), Joan Freeman at 28/1 (3.4%) or Liadh Ní Riada at 33/1 (2.9%). Paddy Power is offering 66/1 on Peter Casey, the sixth contender. Betfair is offering slightly more generous odds on most of the field: 1.22 (81.9%) on Higgins, 9.8 (10.2%) on Gallagher, 22 (4.5%) on Duffy and 40 (2.5%) on Freeman – although Ní Riada is 9.6 (10.4%).

Higgins is well liked, and has the support of three out of the four main Irish parties (Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour). The only poll, conducted last month has him getting 67% of first-preference votes which would be enough for him to win outright without the need to count second preferences. While there are three presidential debates to go, and a minor news story about presidential expenses in the press, I think that you should take Betfair’s 1.22 on Higgins.