Belfast Telegraph

Byrne tops poll for next president

Veteran broadcaster Gay Byrne is the public's favourite to be the next president, according to a new poll.

With the former Late Late Show host considering a run for the Aras, a Paddy Power/Red C survey gives him more than a quarter of the vote at 28%, ahead of Labour's Michael D Higgins.

Mr Byrne's support is greatest among women and younger people, while Mr Higgins, on 21%, gets the strongest backing from the middle aged and older.

Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell secures just 13% of first preference votes - a blow for the senior coalition party - along with Fianna Fail's Brian Crowley, who has not declared but has been touted as a potential candidate. Businessman Sean Gallagher is on 12%, Special Olympics Ireland chairwoman Mary Davis is on 7% and Dana Rosemary Scallon, also rumoured to be considering a bid, is on 6%.

Mr Byrne, 77, is the ladies' favourite, with 34% support, while 48% of 18 to 24-year-olds rate him the best man for the job. He is most popular among Dublin voters.

The 45-54 age group are the biggest backers of Mr Higgins at 27%, and he is more popular with men than women. Mr Gallagher is most popular among the 25-34 age group, while his greatest backing is in Connaught and Ulster.

Ms Davis has the greatest support from pensioners, while Dana's strongest support comes from the 55-64 age group.

Commentators have claimed Mr Byrne would be a good president, but have raised concerns about his ability to canvass for votes in the campaign. Those difficulties were signalled on Wednesday when Mr Byrne hit out about the development of the European Union, claiming Ireland was being "run by mad people in Brussels".

The comments would potentially put him at odds with a staunchly pro-European Fine Gael-led Government should he make it to the Aras. Questions have also been raised about his suitability for the seven-year term given his age.

Ms Scallon ran as an independent candidate in the 1997 presidential election. She also tried unsuccessfully to get a nomination to stand against Mary McAleese in 2004. However, she has not yet spoken of her intentions.

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