VETERAN broadcaster Gay Byrne last night revealed Fianna Fail would back him in the presidential race -- but was at pains to stress he would be an Independent candidate.
He still has to consult with his family in the coming days and will not make a final decision on whether to run until next week.
It is understood Micheal Martin has told some members of his parliamentary party that if Mr Byrne wanted support to get on to the ballot paper, he would get it.
But the party's deputy leader Eamon O Cuiv -- often mentioned as a possible internal Fianna Fail candidate -- said he knew nothing about any approach to the road safety chief.
"I know of no approach to Gay Byrne," said Mr O Cuiv, who is on holiday. "Nobody has discussed the issue with me -- good, bad or indifferent."
Many Fianna Fail TDs have said they would gladly provide the 20 Oireachtas signatures needed to get him into the election proper.
Despite strong support from TDs such as Niall Collins, John McGuinness, Charlie McConologue and Sean Fleming, there are some in the party who would like an internal candidate.
"This will have to come through the parliamentary party," one source said.
An internal committee set up by Mr Martin to look at the party's approach to the presidential election has yet to meet.
Support for Mr Byrne could also come from Independent TDs; and Finian McGrath last night circulated a list of 11 possible candidates to his non-party colleagues.
Mr Byrne again insisted he was "not into" running under the Fianna Fail banner -- even though one TD said the party's national apparatus could be put at his disposal.
"I think people realise that one way or the other I am assured Fianna Fail backing, but I am not a Fianna Fail candidate," he told the Irish Independent. "This has been ironed out. I am assured there will be cross-party support.
"The official approaches have all been made. Fianna Fail are convinced no matter who they put up will be unelectable, so they're giving me their support."
After speaking to friends and advisers, he said he would not make a final decision until holding a meeting with his wife Kathleen, and two grown-up daughters, Suzy and Crona.
But with Crona living in Killaloe, Co Clare, and Suzy being in France this week, the family meeting will not take place until next week. "That's part of the reason why I won't be able to make a decision for at least a week," said Mr Byrne.
But should he enter the race, and be elected, the 77-year-old revealed he would likely serve one term as President.
"It's one seven-year term and I will be old enough if I get through that," he said -- and added he would push the boundaries of the office.
" Mary McAleese has tried to push the boundaries and I would be in danger of pushing the boundaries. But it is a ceremonial office and there are huge constraints on what you may do