Gaybo - 'I'm very surprised young people are backing me'
VETERAN broadcaster Gay Byrne yesterday said he is "surprised and heartened" by a poll which shows him to be the most popular choice to become the next president.
With 28pc of first-preference votes on a list of potential candidates, the 77-year-old was comfortably ahead of rivals.
"This is the first major poll that has been done and it's very heartening, very complimentary and overwhelmingly good," Byrne told the Irish Independent.
The former 'Late Late Show' host admitted he was taken aback that research showed he had strong support from women and young people.
"Women, maybe, but young people? That's very surprising.
"I wouldn't have thought that's where my support was," he said.
Asked if his strong showing would encourage him to declare his intention to become a candidate, Byrne said: "This goes into the pot of consideration, yes. It certainly goes into the pot among all the others -- but I know from huge experience that poll and votes and opinions change vastly as we go along the line.
"I'm talking to people and getting all kinds of advice and all kinds of help and have all sorts of interested parties talking to me.
"But there's no (imminent) time limit on when I must issue a decision, so I'm taking my time."
The radio and television presenter said he had "no regrets" over newspaper headlines prompted by anti-EU comments he made on Wednesday evening.
Byrne said that the country was being run by "mad people in Brussels" -- his first controversial comments since he was tipped for the presidential race but the latest in a series of eurosceptic remarks down the years.
The broadcaster said: "I have no regrets whatsoever. Everybody knows that's how I feel.
"I voted twice against the Lisbon Treaty and that's where I stand. If people don't like my opinion, that's too bad.
"What's interesting is that people writing in newspapers are paid to give an opinion. When I give an opinion, it is described as 'a rant' . . . which I find very interesting indeed.
"It probably has something to do with the attitude of the headline writers but these are the troubles we see along the way."
He then indicated he would make the decision whether to run for the Aras in the next seven days.
"Definitely in the next week. I think so. It has to be done. I don't want to drag it on.
"It's a complex issue, and it is a very important decision to be made. There are more than myself to be considered so I have to take my time," he said.
He is waiting to discuss the matter with his wife Kathleen, as well as his daughters Suzy and Crona when they return from holiday next week.