Gaybo for the Aras? Broadcaster consults with close advisers
Byrne: I will make my decision in near future
VETERAN broadcaster Gay Byrne is now seriously discussing a run for the Presidency with close friends and advisers.
He said last night he had received messages of support from members of several political parties as he considered a late entry into the race.
The former 'Late Late Show' presenter indicated he would make a decision sooner rather than later.
He said he did not want speculation to "drag on".
He told the Irish Independent: "I'm talking to a few people about this. I want to hear what they have to say. I'm thinking about it."
The 77-year-old has found himself at the centre of a growing clamour to join the race for the Aras since Senator David Norris dropped out of the contest.
Mr Norris's decision to stand down came amid controversy linked to his decision to write a letter supporting his former lover, who had been convicted of statutory rape.
But the departure of an early favourite left a gaping hole for another candidate with popular appeal to enter the fray.
Mr Byrne was cast into the limelight when a radio poll last week showed 46pc favoured him.
Mary Davis was next on 16pc, ahead of Labour and Fine Gael party candidates Michael D Higgins and Gay Mitchell.
Having previously said he would consider running for the Aras "if the mass of the Irish people were clamouring for Gay to be President", he said he was now taking firm advice on the subject.
"I'm talking to a few people about this. I want to hear what they have to say. I'm thinking about it," he said last night.
"I have had cross-party support -- but all this is new to me."
A second radio poll yesterday -- this time conducted via text on 2fm's Tubridy Show -- showed 54pc of listeners supported Mr Byrne running for the presidency.
But Mr Byrne remained cautious, and said: "That means that 46pc don't want me to run".
"I'm taking things like that on board too. I'm new on the radar and people, I imagine, are just getting their heads around it," he said.
But he indicated he would be moving quickly over the coming days. "The candidates have until the end of August to declare but I don't want to drag it on.
"I'm talking to people, hearing what they have to say, then I will decide what I'm doing."
Mr Byrne said he had yet to consider the financial implications of running for the presidency, or of the office itself.
And he said that, for the time being, he would be continuing with his broadcasting work.
A new series of his popular 'Meaning Of Life' religious affairs programmes will be among RTE's autumn season launched tomorrow. His other broadcasting commitments include a Sunday show he hosts for station Lyric FM, which attracts its highest audience.
"I'm back on Lyric FM this October, I'm continuing work as usual," he said.
A Fianna Fail spokesman last night said that Mr Byrne had not been in touch with the party to seek its backing for his entry into the presidential race.
Independent TD Finian McGrath, who is co-ordinating the Independents' search for a new presidential candidate, could not be contacted last night. Mr Byrne's friend and colleague Pat Kenny said he thought his 'Late Late Show' predecessor would be tempted by the opportunity to run.
"Gay has his broadcasting work to do . . . would he really, at the end of the day, want to disrupt that?
"Still it's an intriguing idea and if people said to him, 'listen we would love you to do it', I'm not sure he would turn it down -- and I think Gay would make a very good President.
"Bear in mind that he is 77, I'm sure he would choose his targets well as to be most effective in terms of his public appearances and interventions."
If Mr Byrne does declare himself a candidate for the Aras, he can expect a grilling from his RTE colleague.
Kenny's 'Frontline' programme will feature a debate between the various presidential candidates.
Last night Kenny said: "I would put Gay through the wringer on my programme. I would be as tough with Gay as anybody else. I would have to do that.
"But as someone who has thrown those questions for so many years, Gay would be slicker, and more adept at answering them, or avoiding them if he chose.
But he said that Mr Byrne would get his vote, should he choose to run for the Aras. "I would vote for Gay. He is the father of the nation. He changed the country with 'The Late Late Show' and his morning radio programme. He dragged us into the 20th Century."