Former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton has withdrawn from the Presidential race – as the public back a change in legislation to allow Mary McAleese to remain in office for a third term.

Burton was widely tipped to run for Fine Gael in the autumn election but officially withdrew from the race on Sunday.

As former Fine Gael leader Bruton withdrew, the Sunday Independent published an opinion poll which revealed that a majority of Irish people would like to see a change in the law to allow President McAleese to remain in office.

Mrs McAleese’s presidency has never been more popular after the success of the recent state visits of the Queen of England and the President of the United States.

“When you have someone so suited to the role, it does seem a shame she can’t keep going just because of a technicality,” said one respondent to the Sunday Independent /Quantum Research poll.

The survey claimed that 54 percent of Irish people approved of changing the law that forbids a president from serving more than two terms.

However, of the 46 percent who disagreed, one said: “It’s only during the visits of Queen Elizabeth and Barack Obama that this obsession began with her presidency.”

Interestingly, 46 percent of those polled said that a president should not have more than one term, with some respondents suggesting a need for a fresh perspective.

Bruton had polled the second highest approval of all candidates in the survey, conducted before he withdrew. The Meath native polled 11 percent in the poll, taken on Friday.

Independent Senator David Norris remains the favorite for the position with a 41 percent approval rating.

Special Olympics chief Mary Davis, who declared her candidature on Thursday, was next best with nine percent support.

Fianna Fail may not run a candidate in the election at all, while Pat Cox is the latest name to be linked with the Fine Gael nomination after Bruton’s withdrawal.

Irish Prime Minister from 1994 to 1997 and an EU Ambassador to the United States, Bruton admitted to discussing the issue with the party leadership but has opted against running.

“I discussed the matter thoroughly with the party’s representative. I promised to reflect carefully on the request and respond,” said Bruton.

“I did so about ten days ago when I said, with regret, that I did not wish my name to be among those considered.

“It was a very great honor to have been asked but I will now support whoever is selected as the Fine Gael candidate.”