Byrne, an immensely popular Irish broadcaster known for years as the face of the weekly Late Late Show has said that he was 'flattered' to hear news that a Dublin radio station poll had pitted him as top dog, or at least people's choice, for the presidential race, though disclaimed making a commitment to the race until the people 'clamoured' for him to run -- in which case, he said, he would respond to public sentiment.
Unlike Fine Gael's choice, European MEP Gay Mitchell, the living personification of the drop-dead boring Eurocrat, and himself caught up in the fading murmurs of another clemency fiasco (although of a far more muted nature) Byrne is almost ubiquitously liked by old-timers and the new generation alike.
Such cross-generational appeal is a rare phenomenon here, but Byrne's relaxed style, gregarious nature, and natural conviviality would make him a popular choice in anyone's eyes.
Despite his popularity, though, one thing he can't control, and what Byrne himself may be the biggest obstacle to a potential bid, is his age.
At 77, and despite his own claims that he is a 'youthful' septuagenarian, Byrne isn't exactly fresh out of the cot, and although the requirements of the office stipulate a minimum age of 35, Byrne, pushing on 80, could be a little old for the job's mandatory seven year term.
Given that he has only recently made 77, he'd be almost half-way down the road towards his nineties by the time it's time to look for his successor. To put it into US perspective, Ronald Reagan was the oldest incumbent to ever take up office at the White House -- comparatively younger, at just 69 years and 349 days.
Despite that rather ageist, though pragmatic, problem, a few signs from Byrne's brief interview in today's Irish Times hint that he may be seriously considering a run for the Áras, as the official residence of Ireland's president is called.
He says that if public 'clamour' is sufficiently vociferous he will respond in kind, and is careful to describe himself as a 'young' 77 year old before throwing in that he was flattered about the radio poll result -- and highlighting that he hasn't even been officially put forward as a runner for the position yet.
These signs of course do not amount to anything nearing a commitment on Gaybo's part -- as he is popularly known in Ireland -- , and are extremely tentative, but his bid for the office would be a welcome break from what, since Norris' surprise exit from standings, is turning into an extremely tedious and unexciting presidential race.
Though Norris was by no means popular, he was flamboyant. A 'character' whose Achilles' heel seems to have been an over-inflated sense of self-worth (he called himself in the letter a figure of 'some consequence' among other glorified self-references) and an unfortunate tendency to write irresponsible letters pontificating other countries' judiciaries about the adequacy (or otherwise) of their legal systems, while continuing a consenting relationship with a convicted rapist (albeit a statutory one).
Unfortunately, however, his clearance from proceedings has left a noticeable void of personality in his wake.
Gay Mitchell, who pipped Pat Cox and other contenders to secure Fine Gael's nomination, is excruciatingly uninteresting, unlikely to curry anybody but the most devout Europhile's enthusiasm; 'Michael D' [Higgins] is another veteran hack whose Anglicized accent, reputedly bad poetry, and anti-American position make him widely unpopular outside of the political establishment (if he is even liked there), and a growing chorus of voices is fast expressing its dissatisfaction at the political sniping and turncoating which prompted Norris' resignation.
Such widespread desire from the people that they -- the people of the Republic of Ireland, not the media nor the Opposition -- chose their President, could play right into any Independent candidate's hand.
And if Gay steps forth to lead their charge, half out of a belief that he'd make a good president, and half out of a complete unexcitement about his prospective contenders, he'd have my vote.