Higgins the bookies' favourite as support for Dragon collapses
Michael D Higgins has been reinstated as the clear favourite with bookies to win the presidential election.
Odds on the Labour candidate were slashed to 8-13 yesterday, as an online poll of over 2,500 Irish emigrants gave him 41pc of first preferences.
The poll, conducted yesterday by the website ballotbox.ie, shows a dramatic collapse in support for independent candidate Sean Gallagher in the aftermath of RTE's 'Frontline' debate.
The 'Dragons' Den' star, who was grilled on his links with Fianna Fail fundraising, got just 10pc, falling behind Senator David Norris and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.
The website required voters to submit passport information to ensure that they were eligible to partake in the one-day poll, which closed at 5pm yesterday.
Technology was used to block voters in the Republic of Ireland from being involved, preventing any potential block voting.
Higgins was the runaway winner, with Mr Norris finishing as runner-up with 24pc.
As well as attracting the majority of first preferences, the poll also indicated that Higgins received almost three times the amount of transfers as his nearest rival Senator Norris.
Mr McGuinness came in third with 18pc, while the under-fire Sean Gallagher finished fourth with just 10pc.
Both Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell and Independent Mary Davis received 3pc of first preferences, with Dana Rosemary Scallon securing just 1pc.
Voters from over 97 countries took part in the mock-election with the UK, US, Australia, Canada and Germany providing the most votes, while votes were also cast from countries such as Malawi, Kazakhstan, Yemen, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
The surge in support for Mr Higgins is reflected in the betting trends. After the 'Frontline' debate, one punter wagered €6,500 on Mr Higgins at 11-10 with bookies Paddy Power, forcing them to reduce his odds to evens.
These tightened further to 8-13 yesterday morning as more money poured on the Labour veteran, pushing previous favourite Mr Gallagher from odds-on to 6-5.
The constant flip-flopping of favourites over the past couple of weeks has created havoc with the Paddy Power book, the bookmaker claimed.
And spokesman Ken Robertson said last night that they were on a loser, irrespective of which of the two front-runners wins.
"This will be a bad result for us unless Dana produces a miracle,"Mr Robertson quipped.
According to the bookies, Mr Gallagher is still favourite to win most first-preference votes, but has eased out in that also -- from 1-3 to 2-5.
Overall betting yesterday saw Mr Higgins at 8-13 (from 5-2 on Monday); Mr Gallagher 6-5 (1-4); Mr McGuinness 25-1 (from 50-1); Mr Norris 33-1 (from 66-1); Mr Mitchell 66-1 and outsiders Mrs Davis and Mrs Scallon at 300-1.
It is the fifth change at the top of the presidential betting list since the start of the year.