'Me run for president? Ask me later' - Gay

Clodagh Sheehy

VETERAN broadcaster Gay Byrne has hinted he may be the latest to join the crowded presidential race.

Byrne, who turned 77 yesterday, says calls for him to enter the contest are "kind of encouraging and it is kind of stupefying".

He insisted he had not thought about contesting the October election but he refused to rule it out.

Asked by Ryan Tubridy if it was a possibility, he coyly responded: "Could we leave this question and come back to it at a later date and see what happens."

The chairman of the Road Safety Authority admitted he would "have to take some considerable persuasion" to run.

"I hadn't thought about it. It hasn't been on my horizon."

The possibility of Uncle Gaybo becoming President Gaybo was raised by a 4fm radio poll which asked listeners who they wanted in the Phoenix Park.

Gay Byrne came out on top with almost 50pc of the vote, followed by presidential candidate Mary Davis at 16pc.

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

"I would rather go on doing what I am doing with For One Night Only and The Meaning Of Life and my Lyric FM programme on Sunday."

It had been reported in recent weeks that Fianna Fail approached the former Late Late Show host about nominating him as a candidate. A spokesman for the party, however, refused to comment.

Another rumoured candidate, broadcaster Olivia O'Leary, has ruled herself out.

The new names are emerging days after Senator David Norris withdrew from the contest after it was revealed he wrote a letter to Israeli authorities seeking clemency for his former partner Ezra Yizham Nawi, who was convicted of the statutory rape of a 15 year old boy.

His former supporters are now looking for a new candidate but Dublin North Central Independent TD Finian McGrath said Gay Byrne was not one of the three non-party candidates he had in mind.

Labour's Michael D Higgins said: "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.

"They might have allowed a week to go by before seeking a substitute candidate."