Norris leads pack in presidential race
HE was first out of the starting blocks in the race for the Phoenix Park, and according to the results of a Sunday Independent/Quantum Res-earch poll on Ireland's next president, senator David Norris is blazing a trail ahead of other potential candidates.
Asked who they would like to see sitting in the Aras, 28 per cent of those polled gave Norris -- an independent senator and Joycean scholar -- the nod over a range of politicians and public figures.
Indeed, according to our survey, Mr Norris has four times the support of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
Mr Ahern -- who is understood to be awaiting the findings of the Mahon tribunal before he decides on whether he should run for the presidency -- was favoured by just seven per cent of those polled.
Not that Mr Norris is a shoo-in for the job just yet.
"Norris would be a breath of fresh air, but are we ready to elect someone like him?" one male respondent to our poll asked, referring to Mr Norris's status as an openly gay man.
That question didn't arise for the majority of other respondents, however, with many believing Mr Norris would make a great ambassador for Ireland.
Next in the stakes to succeed President Mary McAleese is Barnardos chief and former Labour Party Chef de Cabinet Fergus Finlay.
Mr Finlay, who last Thursday publicly declared his intention to seek the Labour Party's nomination as its candidate for the 2011 presidential election, received the support of 20 per cent of those polled.
In a relatively distant third place in the popularity stakes is Labour Party President Michael D Higgins. Just 11 per cent of those polled believe the Galway TD and former Arts Minister would be the right man for the presidency.
But while three male candidates secured the collective support of 59 per cent of those polled, the prospect of seven more years of mna na hEireann ruling the presidential roost cannot be discounted.
Special Olympics director Mary Davis is the most popular female choice, according to our survey. Although Ms Davis hasn't even declared any intention to seek a nomination for the presidency, 10 per cent of those polled think she would be perfect for the role.
"Why does it have to be a politician? They are just in it for the perks. It should go to someone like Mary Davis," one female respondent said.
Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly and Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness are the next most popular female choices for the presidency, polling nine per cent each. And while she hasn't given any indication that she might be interested in vacating her unofficial role as the grand dame of Dail Eireann, former Enterprise Minister and Fianna Fail TD for Westmeath, Mary O'Rourke, won't be heading in the direction of the Phoenix Park any time soon, according to the results of our poll.
A mere six per cent of those responding to the Sunday Independent Quantum Research poll believe Ms O'Rourke is the right person for the presidency.