The Labor Part's Michael D. Higgins is now leading the race of Irish presidential hopefuls, while competing candidates Gay Mitchell and Senator David Norris have lost or failed to garner support.

The latest results from the Ipso MRBI poll show that Higgins is now leading the race at 23%. Independent candidate Sean Gallagher has risen to second place at 20%. Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness comes in a close third on 19%.

Support for Senator Davis Norris has dropped in the latest poll. showing 11% support in the latest survey, down from 25% in July.

After Norris comes Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell, who is polling in single digits at 9%. Dana Rosemary Scallon has the lowest numbers of all candidates in the race at 6%.

Public debates and doorstep campaigns may be changing the public's perceptions of the candidates in the race which is in turn affecting their polling numbers.

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Why Sinn Fein candidate Martin McGuinness shouldn’t be President

On Tuesday's nationally televised debate Martin McGuinness came under sustained attack from fellow candidate Gay Mitchell for his connections to the IRA, an attack that was echoed by the debate’s host Vincent Browne.

'I'm not ashamed of anything I have done,' McGuinness told the press after the debate. 'I joined the IRA when I was very young. The people of Derry were being beaten off the streets. They were being shot off the streets by the British Army. What was I to do? We fought back. Am I ashamed of that? Not on your nelly.'

In response Mitchell said: 'I ask questions about Martin McGuinness because Martin has raised these questions himself. I'm talking about issues he's raising now. These are legitimate questions to raise.'

During the debate Browne also pressed Norris to reveal who had advised him not to publish his clemency letters.

Michael D Higgins, who stood on a box throughout the debate because of his short stature, said he may be the one of the shortest candidates in this race, but is still a frontrunner.

Michael D Higgins photographed outside Leinster HouseGoogle Images