Norris trouncing his rivals in race for Park
Senator ahead in poll as FF seeks 'non-official' candidate
Fianna Fail is desperately searching for a high-profile presidential candidate from outside the party whom it could nominate but not support publicly or financially.
An informal approach through an intermediary to see if he had any interest in the Presidency was gently rebuffed by broadcasting legend Gay Byrne in the last week.
And the other main choice for Fianna Fail, RTE presenter Miriam O'Callaghan, said yesterday she was not interested in standing for the Presidency this time around.
She told the Sunday Independent that if she ever considered running for the park "just of the briefest moment" it would be as an Independent and she would not be a party political candidate at any time.
The Prime Time presenter said she had not been approached officially by Fianna Fail but said she was aware of the rumours.
"It's a story that just won't go away. This started last year. It's quite extraordinary but if people think I'm going to jump out of the bushes at the last minute and make a dash for the Park they are wrong," she said. "I will not be running for the Presidency this year. If I do you can come back and haunt me."
Meanwhile, a Sunday Independent/Quantum Research telephone poll has again solidly endorsed David Norris as the most popular candidate.
Senator Norris is supported by 42 per cent of voters -- double the support of the next most popular candidate, Gay Mitchell of Fine Gael, who received 21 per cent support, up from nine per cent in our last poll.
Labour's Michael D Higgins is in third place with 16 per cent followed by the two other Independent candidates Mary Davis on 11 per cent and Sean Gallagher on 10 per cent.
Mr Norris's high level of support in Sunday Independent/Quantum Research polls has been remarkably consistent.
Since the last poll on July 3, his support has risen by five percentage points from 37 per cent to 42 per cent following the withdrawal or elimination of potential Fine Gael and Labour candidates.
Mr Norris has 15 names from the Oireachtas willing to support his nomination but needs five more.
However, there is a growing feeling in Leinster House that a presidential election without Mr Norris would discredit the process.
Fianna Fail has set up a committee to examine the party's options regarding the Presidency against a backdrop of severe difficulties in the party's finances.
At a National Executive Committee meeting some weeks ago Mary Hanafin gave an impassioned plea in favour of a presidential candidate. However, party leader Micheal Martin is less enthused as an official candidate could drain €500,000 from party coffers.
The party is therefore considering a candidate with widespread appeal whom it could nominate.
"Not having an official Fianna Fail candidate may be the way forward. What they are looking for is someone to whom they could give a nomination who would have national appeal. If they won, it would reflect well on the party," a senior source said.
Analysis, Page 12