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Olivia O’Leary turns down the chance to run for president against Gay Byrne

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Broadcaster and journalist Olivia O’Leary has refused point blank to run against her former colleague Gay Byrne in the Presidential election.

O’Leary has been approached by a posse of Independent members of the Irish parliament anxious to back an alternative candidate.

The group of deputies, led by Shane Ross, Mick Wallace and Finian McGrath, are looking for a candidate to back after the withdrawal of Senator David Norris last week.

They may yet support broadcasting legend Gay Byrne if the 77-year-old decides to run and the majority of them will have welcomed his anti-EU rant.

But they have also drawn up a list of 10 potential candidates whom they intend to approach in the coming days.

O’Leary, now a freelance writer and broadcaster, is top of the list but has refused to even consider the role of presidential candidate as the country seeks a successor to Mary McAleese.

According to the Irish Independent, the list also includes historians Joe Lee and Diarmaid Ferriter and businessmen Feargal Quinn and Padraig O Ceidigh.

Former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness and the former governor of Mountjoy Prison, John Lonergan are also listed to be approached.

O Ceidigh, former chief executive with the Aer Arann airline, did express an interest in running last month and has confirmed that he has been in talks with the group of Independent deputies.

“I am weighing up my options and will make a decision next week,” said O Ceidigh.

Others on the proposed list include RTE presenter Sharon Ni Bheolain and former senator and trade unionist Joe O’Toole.

The 16 Independent Deputies are willing to provide over half a million dollars in funding for the right candidate.

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