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It will be noted that President Michael D Higgins delayed the formal announcement that he intends to run for re-election until almost the latest possible stage.

There can be little doubt that Mr Higgins is sensitive over his previous assurance in 2011 that he was only prepared to serve a single seven-year term in Áras an Uachtaráin.

However, he has proved to be an outstanding head of state and, with his health excellent at the age of 77, he is fully entitled to change his mind.

It remains to be seen whether a rival candidate emerges but it would be a considerable surprise if Mr Higgins is not returned to his post in the Autumn.

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