Donegal’s adopted son and legendary broadcaster, Gay Bryne, could yet become the next President of Ireland, after a week in the Irish Presidential campaign, that was as dramatic, as any, in recent history.
A non contender little more than a week ago, a slight Dungloe breeze seems to have developed into a veritable whirlwind of support for the affable Dub, who spends at least three months of the year in Donegal.
Yesterday it emerged that Mr Byrne had received the support of the leader of the Fianna Fáil party, Micheál Martin, although he has insisted that he would only run as an Independent candidate, if making a bid for the Aras.
Regardless, it will be in his second home of Dungloe that the 77-year-old will ultimately decide on making his decision, after consulting his family and close personal friends.
A close Donegal friend of the broadcaster told the Democrat: “I know that the people of Dungloe and Donegal would give Gay huge support if he were to decide to run for Presidency. It is a big decision, but after 34 years as a broadcaster, he would certainly need no introduction. His strong links with the county have spanned over four decades and he has been a great ambassador for this county over the years.
“The general consensus amongst locals would be that it would be a wonderful thing that having contributed so much to this country, that in the twilight of his career, he would seek such and get elected to such a prestigious office. It is the job for a Statesman and Gay would fit right in there.”
He added that Gay’s wife Kathleen Watkins would make the perfect first lady, if he were to decide on such a route.
Meanwhile, Mr Byrne confirmed to RTÉ yesterday that he had been approached by Micheál Martin over the weekend, but would not be making any further comment about running for the Presidency for another week.
He added that no one has set a time limit for him to make a decision, and he felt he had said enough about the issue for the moment.
One person whose nose might be out of joint though, is Deputy leader of the Fianna Fail party, Eamon O’Cuiv, who declared that he was not in the loop relating to any approach made to Gay Byrne.
Since retiring from hosting the Late Late Show, Gay Byrne has been involved in a number of broadcasting projects on television and radio.
Outside of broadcasting his most high profile position has been as Chairman of the Road Safety Authority, but the Presidency had figured nowhere on his agenda.
He admitted that it hadn’t been on his “horizon” until he got a call from a Dublin radio station last week, indicating that he had topped a radio poll of presidential prefereences, despite not even been on the ticket.
Later he told Ryan Tubridy on his Friday morning radio show: “It’s very complimentary and very nice and so on but I never said that I was interested in the least in this whole thing. I would have to take some considerable persuasion because I hadn’t thought about it. It hasn’t been on my horizon, ” he said.
Meanwhile, Gay celebrated his 77th birthday with a mountain trek last Friday in Donegal with an eighteen strong team following early morning coffee and buns. As usual, he was noy shy of speaking about his love of Donegal: “We started coming here about 40 years ago simply because, as random choice would have it, we had a very good friend whose very old aunt died and left him a house up here and we started coming to visit him and then this little cottage came up for sale and nobody else wanted it and I bought it and that’s the simple story. The lovely thing about coming to Donegal is that we know them and they know us and we feel reasonably well at home.”
Many feel that with the current complement of candidates seeking the Presidency, he could feel ‘reasonably well at home’ in the Phoenix Park.