Gay to pull out of presidential race, claim pals

FRENZY: Fianna Fail TDs left feeling cheated

Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

GAY Byrne's election campaign was dwindling today as friends claimed he does not intend to seek a presidential nomination.

The broadcaster now says that he will reach a final decision by next Wednesday.

However, some close friends believe that he has already decided not to run, despite feeding a frenzy of speculation for over a week.

The Herald can also reveal that the former Late Late Show host previously dismissed outright the idea of seeking a position in high office in his autobiography.

"When people ask me, as they do ad infinitum, if I am aware of the impact I have on people -- King Gaybo, Social worker Gaybo, Taoiseach Gaybo, Bishop Gaybo, and so on -- I can honestly reply that I can see myself in no such role.

"I am a broadcaster, and that is the beginning and end of it," he said in his 1989 autobiography. But in the same publication -- which is now out of print -- he expressed strong political opinions and called for massive reforms.

"I suppose I would call myself a very right-wing conservative or reactionary," he wrote.

As speculation continued, Mr Byrne said that he would not make any decision until one of his daughters returned from a holiday in France on Monday.

"I will make the announcement when I make the announcement," said Mr Byrne, who has retreated to his holiday home in Donegal.

Sources say that final clarification is likely to come on Wednesday but the drawn-out process has left many in Fianna Fail feeling cheated.

It is over a week since party leader Micheal Martin offered support to get Mr Byrne on the ballot paper. Mr Byrne has insisted that nobody except the media is putting pressure on him to reach a decision , but several Fianna Fail sources have expressed disappointment with the "dragged out" process.

A number of TDs are now calling for a parliamentary party meeting to address the situation, while others want the party to back MEP Brian Crowley.

Kerry senator Ned O'Sullivan said that he was very concerned at the "drip-feed" of support for Mr Byrne.

Others, including senators Mary White, Mark Daly and Denis O'Donovan, have expressed concerns about the ongoing confusion. Mr O'Donovan has said that Brian Crowley should be given "first refusal".