Saturday 18 November 2017

'Stupefied' Gay hints at run for the presidency

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

VETERAN broadcaster and road safety chief Gay Byrne yesterday left the door open on a possible run for the presidency.

Byrne, who turned 77 yesterday, said it was encouraging that some recent polls put him ahead of the declared candidates running for the Aras.

But although he said he hadn't thought about contesting the election in October, the chairman of the Road Safety Authority refused to rule out running.

"I would have to take some considerable persuasion," Mr Byrne told 'The Tubridy Show' on RTE radio. "I hadn't thought about it even, it hasn't been on my horizon."

He said calls for him to enter the race were "kind of encouraging and it is kind of stupefying".

But, when pressed on if he would run if approached, he said: "Could we leave this question and come back to it at a later date and see what happens?"

The possibility of Byrne running comes just days after David Norris pulled out of the race after it emerged he wrote a letter to Israeli authorities seeking clemency and a non-custodial sentence for his former partner Ezra Yizhak Nawi, who was convicted of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy.

Mr Norris had consistently polled as the most popular candidate, coming in at around 20pc support in a number of opinion polls. His former supporters in the ranks of Independent TDs and senators are now sounding out new candidates to support.

However, Dublin North-Central Independent TD Finian McGrath said Byrne was not one of three non-party candidates he had in mind.

It had been reported in recent weeks that Fianna Fail approached Byrne about nominating him as a candidate.

However, a spokesman for the party would not comment on this yesterday.

Another rumoured candidate and fellow broadcaster, journalist Olivia O'Leary, yesterday ruled herself out.

After Mr Norris withdrew this week, one radio poll put Byrne as favourite to be President. 4fm asked listeners who they wanted in the Phoenix Park and Byrne came top on almost 50pc, with Mary Davis next on 16pc.

"My name wasn't even mentioned and I still came in at 46pc and the nearest one to me was Mary Davis," Byrne said yesterday.

Clamour

"I never said I was interested in the least in this whole thing. Let the clamour continue.

"I would rather go on doing what I am doing with (TV shows) 'For One Night Only' and 'The Meaning of Life' and my Lyric FM programme on Sunday afternoon."

Meanwhile, Labour's Michael D Higgins criticised Mr McGrath for searching for another candidate so soon after withdrawing his support for Mr Norris.

"I do think as well in relation to other reports that have come from Finian McGrath and others that it is indecent haste to be looking for an alternative to David (Norris)," he said. "They might have allowed a week to go by before seeking a substitute candidate."

LISE HAND: PAGE 20

Irish Independent

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