Opposition could back Gay Byrne, says TD

A SENIOR member of the Fianna Fáil front bench has suggested broadcaster Gay Byrne could be nominated for the presidency by a…

A SENIOR member of the Fianna Fáil front bench has suggested broadcaster Gay Byrne could be nominated for the presidency by a cross section of Opposition TDs and Senators.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on public expenditure and reform Seán Fleming said yesterday Mr Byrne would be an excellent candidate.

He said his party could be part of a group of TDs and Senators who could sign Mr Byrne’s nomination papers.

Mr Fleming said that between the Opposition parties and Independent TDs and Senators, there were about 75 members of the Oireachtas who had not nominated a presidential candidate to date.


“The two Government parties have nominated their candidate but nobody has been nominated by the Opposition parties and Independents,” Mr Fleming told The Irish Times.

He suggested that Fianna Fáil could join with others to nominate Mr Byrne. “If that happened we might not feel inclined to run against him,” added Mr Fleming.

He said Mr Byrne could quite easily get 20 members of the Oireachtas to nominate him on a non-party basis.

“There is great goodwill towards Gay and I believe a majority of people would be very comfortable with him as president,” said Mr Fleming.

Mr Byrne has left open the possibility of running for the presidency but added it would require considerable public persuasion for him to do so.

At the weekend the 77-year-old broadcaster again expressed his surprise that he had topped a poll of presidential election candidates conducted by radio station 4FM, even though his name wasn’t among the four put forward.

“My name wasn’t even mentioned but the results of the poll showed I was favourite over the other four. I had 46 per cent approval rating and the next nearest one was about 16 per cent. I am flattered, it is a huge compliment,” he said.

Asked if this level of public support would prompt him to enter the race, he replied: “If somebody can convince me that the mass of the Irish people are clamouring for Gay to be president, I would have to listen to the clamour”.

However, he also said the role entailed a “a huge disruption to someone’s life” and that “until somebody can convince me that there is some significance in what is going on, I tend to walk away from it”.

Mr Byrne added be believed there was a view among the people that David Norris was dumped out of the presidential race “through underhand means”.

“They are not quite sure how, they are not quite sure why, they are not quite sure who, but that is what they feel.”

He added this feeling meant the public “have no time for the political parties” at the moment.

Mr Byrne also moved to quash a suggestion his age could be a barrier to him entering the race. After celebrating his birthday yesterday, he described himself as a “young 77-year-old”.

Meanwhile, yesterday a group of people handed in a petition at Leinster House asking the politicians who withdrew their support from Mr Norris’s presidential bid to reconsider their position.

One of the organisers of the campaign, Leo O’Shaughnessy, said they had received about 200 signatures on the petition and the support of another 400 people online.