Mairead McGuinness and Gay MitchellCollins

Avril Doyle the former TD and MEP has withdrawn from her applications to run as a Fine Gael candidate for the Irish Presidential election. Her withdrawl leaves three Fine Gael contenders for the ticket - Pat Cox, Mairead McGuinness and Gay Mitchell.

The Fine Gael selection convention will take place this Saturday.

In a statement Doyle said that she had withdrawn "in the best interest of the Fine Gael party".

She said " Having come into the race late, and being a realist, I now realize that I am unlikely to secure the nomination, notwithstanding the fact that I retain the support of a sizeable number of the Parliamentary Party, the National Executive and Councillors nationwide.



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"I am not going to disadvantage any of the three remaining candidates by endorsing one in particular. The candidate of choice will have my full support.

"To my many loyal supporters and friends in the Parliamentary Party, among the Councillors, the National Executive and to my dedicated campaign team, my sincere thanks for all of their encouragement and commitment."

Currently Gay Mitchell and Mairead McGuinness are seen as the front runners within the Fine Gael Party.

Party sources told the Evening Herald "Many people within the party now see it as a straight choice between the country woman and the city man."

Most of the party members who have gone public with their support rest in McGuinness' camp. However support for Mitchell is growing.

Pat Cox, former president of the European Parliament, has suffered from the perception that he has joined the party only to win the presidential nomination

On Saturday 600 party members will be entitled to vote - these include party's Oireachtas members, MEPs, councillors and members for the Fine Gael executive council.