FIANNA Fail's best hope of winning Dublin's first Mayoral election has ruled herself out of the contest.
As renegade Green Paul Gogarty confirmed that he is "interested" in the €200,000-a-year position, former FF Lord Mayor Eibhlin Byrne has rejected advances to run for the high-profile position.
Her decision is a fresh blow to Brian Cowen's beleaguered Government as Ms Byrne was seen as the single candidate who might be able to overcome public anger towards Fianna Fail.
Bookmakers had installed her as a frontrunner long before it was confirmed that an election will take place later this year.
But she has now criticised the scope of the job, which will operate alongside the city mayoral position that already exists.
The cost of operating the current Lord Mayor's office was almost €1m last year, including wages for six house staff and four office staff. Cash-strapped Dublin City Council also forked out thousands to maintain the Mansion House, nearly €70,000 to Cllr Emer Costello and a further €65,319 for two drivers.
An additional €4,985 was spent on tax, fuel, insurance and maintenance of a mayoral car, bringing the total cost of the office for 2009 to €956,000.
Questions are now being asked as to why the ceremonial position will continue to exist even after the new position is created at an extra cost of €5m a year.
Ms Byrne said the job was "a good idea" but its "time has not yet come".
"This is an office which should not be bound up in the current style of politics which has been rejected by so many. It needs to stand for something new. It will not carry the power of a Taoiseach nor the protection of being removed from politics as the presidential office is," she said.
The ex-councillor said that local government needs to be totally reformed but the legislation being proposed by Environment Minister John Gormley falls well short of that.
The Green Party has been the driving force behind the idea and at the weekend Paul Gogarty confirmed that he will consider running for the plum job. The TD, infamous for his "F*** you Deputy Stagg" outburst in the Dail, is to spend the next few months "talking to Dubliners about how they expect the mayor to improve services in the city and county".
However, Ms Byrne said the election has the potential to take the focus away from the real issues in the capital by becoming a party political debate. Ms Byrne has never hidden her alliances to Fianna Fail and ran as a sweeper candidate for Eoin Ryan in last June's European elections, picking up 19,000 votes. Speculation was rife that she would be chosen by the party to run in the first ever mayoral election, but the Clontarf-based politician has now ruled that out.
"I shall not be putting my name forward as a candidate for election in the autumn," she confirmed to the Herald.
"I believe that Dublin needs to unite around the city's needs rather than divide along political lines about who should be the directly elected Mayor."
She has called for "radical change" in local government that "would demonstrate serious political commitment to the new Ireland and could deliver for Dublin".
A number of independent candidates are expected to contest the election, while Labour councillor Dermot Lacey has announced his intent. Rugby pundit George Hook has threatened that he will run as a blocker candidate if former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern decides to run.