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Growing support from FF to push Gay for the Aras

MOMENTUM is growing in Fianna Fail to nominate Gay Byrne as the party's presidential candidate.

Several members of the party's front bench have today indicated their support for the broadcaster, with a number of Oireachtas members admitting that the party's only hope of success is through the running of an external candidate.

And in what will prove a serious blow to presidential hopeful and MEP Brian Crowley, just two Oireachtas members declared their support for him when contacted by the Herald.

Influential frontbench TDs Sean Fleming, Willie O'Dea, Niall Collins and Michael McGrath have all today rowed in behind Gay Byrne's potential candidacy.



veteran

Mr Byrne yesterday admitted that he is seriously considering a run for the Presidency and that he will make a decision sooner rather than later.

"I'm talking to a few people about this. I'm thinking about it.

"The candidates have until the end of August to declare but I don't want to drag it on. I'm talking to people, hearing what they have to say, then I will decide what I'm doing," he said.

Fianna Fail Environment spokesperson Niall Collins told the Herald that the veteran broadcaster would win the election "hands down".

"If Gay Byrne wanted to run for Fianna Fail, we should absolutely give him the nomination. He'd win it. Gay is clearly the favourite so we have to ask ourselves, why wouldn't we support someone like Gay Byrne?"

Former Minister Willie O'Dea told the Herald that he was opposed to running anybody from within Fianna Fail.

"Gay Byrne would make an outstanding candidate. We should not be running someone internal as the party simply hasn't recovered yet," he said.

Other Oireachtas members who have spoken in favour of nominating Mr Byrne include the party's children's spokesman Charlie McConalogue, Carlow-Kilkenny TD John McGuinness and Senators Paschal Mooney and Thomas Byrne.

Meanwhile, Senator Ned O'Sullivan as well as party chairman and Wexford TD John Browne both said they would be supporting Mr Crowley.

Deputy Browne, who described Mr Crowley as a "close friend" told the Herald:

"Brian Crowley is a consistent poll-topper. I believe we must field a candidate from within the party and Brian is the ideal choice.

"I have no problem with Gay Byrne but Brian is Fianna Fail through and through."



independent

However a number of deputies, speaking on the basis on anonymity, admitted the party had little chance of success by fielding an internal candidate.

One veteran TD said: "It's as simple as this. The electorate haven't forgiven Fianna Fail and they won't for a long, long time.

"We need to look to someone outside of the party if we have any hope of coming out of the election with a shred of credibility."

Sources have confirmed to the Herald that a number of party figures have "indirectly" contacted the former Late Late Show host about throwing his hat in the ring.

However, it is understood that he is considering whether to run as an independent candidate -- garnering cross-party support -- or whether to seek a Fianna Fail nomination.

ANNA NOLAN: PAGE 31


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