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Wednesday 21 February 2018

Byrne's close friends say he won't run for the presidency

But he will wait until mid-week to reveal decision on Aras bid

Sam Smyth and Ken Sweeney

GAY BYRNE is expected to announce by the middle of next week that he will not be a candidate for the presidency.

Close friends of the veteran broadcaster have said they believe he has already made up his mind not to put his name forward in the election for the Aras.

Last night, Mr Byrne said that he would be issuing a statement about his intentions next Wednesday and that he hadn't yet made a decision because one of his daughters will not be back from France until Monday.

"I am not making any decision until I talk to her about it," he said, adding: "I will make the announcement when I make the announcement."

However, close friends believe that his mind is made up not to run.

"I believe he has made up his mind not to run but he has been astonished by the reaction of the public and the media," one close friend said last night.

When contacted by the Irish Independent, Mr Byrne said: "My daughter is not back from France until Monday. These are matters that need to be discussed with my family. I will not be putting out a statement until Wednesday. I am on my way up to Donegal until then.

"Again and again, I am being told there is no rush on me. Everybody is on holiday. Micheal Martin is on holiday. All of Fianna Fail are on holiday.

"Anybody who has anything to do with this, apart from the media, is on holiday. So I don't have to make up my mind."

He added: "Mary McAleese declared seven weeks before the election and she is the President. Seven weeks in this case is in the middle of September and we are only just in the middle of August. Yes, I am still considering it (running for presidency) and the only people who are pushing me are the newspapers."

But one close friend said: "I told Gay he would be better served by ending the speculation before the weekend. I believe he has made up his mind not to run but he has been astonished by the reaction of the public and the media."

Other friends said that no matter what he decided to do, Mr Byrne's best interests would be served by ending the speculation soon.

"If this goes on through the weekend and into next week, a lot of people will be very disappointed if Gay decides not to be a candidate," another friend said.


He added: "Gay has been around long enough to know that the media will turn against him if they feel he has led them on and then let them down."

Mr Byrne's interest in becoming president dominated the news over the past week as he delivered a series of teaser comments about becoming a candidate from his holiday in Donegal.

The public's fascination with the veteran broadcaster as president was matched by the media frenzy at the Grand Canal Theatre on Wednesday.

The three declared candidates would breathe a sigh of relief if Mr Byrne, the most popular candidate according to an opinion poll published on Thursday, decided not to run.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, who rang Mr Byrne and urged him to declare as a candidate last weekend, would face criticism within his own parliamentary party.

Mr Martin did not inform his deputy leader Eamon O Cuiv about approaching Mr Byrne, although Mr O Cuiv had expressed an interest in being Fianna Fail's candidate.

MEP Brian Crowley, who is interested in running but has not so far declared as a candidate, was level on 13pc with Fine Gael's candidate Gay Mitchell.

But the Labour Party candidate Michael D Higgins, who was seven points behind Mr Byrne -- the most popular choice at 28pc -- would expect to pick up support if Mr Byrne dropped out of the race.

Irish Independent

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