Gay Byrne has topped the latest opinion poll on the Presidential election – but he still trails former candidate David Norris by a distance in the popularity stakes.
Byrne, with 28 per cent of first preference votes, is streets ahead of his rivals in the Red C opinion poll commissioned by the Paddy Power bookmaker chain.
But Norris, who withdrew from the race in controversial circumstances last week, still has the support of 40 per cent of the electorate who say they would have voted for him.
The poll, conducted amongst just a thousand voters early this week, has Byrne out in front with 28 per cent with strong support from young people and women.
The Labor Party candidate Michael D Higgins is second 21 per cent with Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell strong in Dublin and third on 13 per cent.
Also at 13 per cent is Fianna Fáil’s Brian Crowley who had yet to enter the contest but scored highly in Munster.
Sean Gallagher is on 12 per cent with fellow independent Mary Davis on 7 per cent and singer Dana Rosemary Scallon on six per cent.
Byrne said he was heartened by the poll and by the support he is receiving from young voters.
“This is the first major poll that has been done and it’s very heartening, very complimentary and overwhelmingly good,” Byrne told the Irish Independent.
“Women, maybe, but young people? That’s very surprising. I wouldn’t have thought that’s where my support was.”
Still to make up his mind on running in the Presidential election, Byrne did concede that he will digest the results of the opinion poll before making a decision.
“This goes into the pot of consideration, yes. It certainly goes into the pot among all the others but I know from huge experience that poll and votes and opinions change vastly as we go along the line,” added Byrne.
“I’m talking to people and getting all kinds of advice and all kinds of help and have all sorts of interested parties talking to me.
“But there’s no imminent time limit on when I must issue a decision, so I’m taking my time.”
The former Late Late Show presenter also defended his anti-Europe comments made earlier this week.
“I have no regrets whatsoever. Everybody knows that’s how I feel,” he added.
“I voted twice against the Lisbon Treaty and that’s where I stand. If people don’t like my opinion, that’s too bad.
“What’s interesting is that people writing in newspapers are paid to give an opinion. When I give an opinion, it is described as ‘a rant’ - which I find very interesting indeed.
“It probably has something to do with the attitude of the headline writers but these are the troubles we see along the way.”
A decision on the Presidential election will be made in the next week according to Byrne.
He said: “Definitely in the next week. I think so. It has to be done. I don’t want to drag it on.
“It’s a complex issue, and it is a very important decision to be made. There are more than myself to be considered so I have to take my time.”