Higgins Is 'Top Of The Poll'

Presidential hopeful Michael D Higgins is leading the race for Aras while fellow candidates Gay Mitchell and Senator David Norris are struggling for support.

Results from the Ipso MRBI poll suggest Mr Higgins is leading the race at 23% up five points from the previous poll taken in July.

Meanwhile independent candidate Sean Gallagher has seen a surge in support, rising seven points to 20%.

Despite criticism over his involvement with the IRA, Sinn Fein candidate Martin McGuinness comes in a close third on 19%.

Mary Davis remains constant, unchanged on 12%, and in fourth place.

However support for Senator Norris seems to have slumped. Only two weeks ago he was predicted in the top three by another poll carried out by Red C.

But this morning Senator Norris polled 11% support in the latest survey, down from 25% in July.

It is understood that support for Senator Norris has plummeted amid ongoing controversies surrounding his candidacy.

Behind the Senator is Fianna Gael’s Mitchell, tumbling 12 points to 9% as voters appear turned off by his combative attacks on rival McGuinness.

Bringing up the rear is Dana Rosemary Scallon on 6%.

A second poll in 24 hours also confirmed some dramatic shifts in the standing of the various candidates, with Independent Sean Gallagher emerging as a serious challenger.

The opinion poll, conducted by Red C for Paddy Power, shows Michael D Higgins at 25%, up 7%. Sean Gallagher stands at 21%, up 10%.

Martin McGuinness is holding his own at 16%, while there has been a drop in support for David Norris - who is down seven at 14%.

Gay Mitchell is at 10%, down 3%, and Mary Davis is also at 10%, down three. Dana Rosemary Scallon is at 5%, a drop of one.

It is believed that as debates and campaigns get underway public opinion of the presidential hopefuls is beginning to change.

Second TV Debate

The Irish Republic's Presidential candidates clashed in the second TV debate, which was aired on TV3.

Martin McGuinness came under fire from fellow candidate Gay Mitchell, once again for his connection to the IRA, while the debate’s host Vincent Browne also attacked the Sinn Fein candidate.

Mr. Mitchell attacked McGuinness over his membership to the IRA while Mr. Browne produced books that he alleged could prove that Mr. McGuinness was a member of the IRA long after 1974.

"I'm not ashamed of anything I have done," McGuinness said 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."

Mr 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."

Each of the candidates faced questioning from Mr. Browne.

Senator David Norris came under pressure to reveal who had advised him not to publish his clemency letters. Letters wrote on behalf of his former lover who had been convicted of statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy.

Dana Rosemary Scallon said that she took "no notice" of opinion polls, which have placed her last in the race.

"I have never been anywhere but the bottom of the opinion polls since I ran in 1997, but the voting has always been different to that…I think if I was high up in the polls, I'd be more worried," she said.

Independent candidate Mary Davis denied any conflict of interest after a PR company her husband is a director of won a contract from the charity Social Entrepreneurs, which they were both members of.

"There was absolutely no conflict of interest whatsoever. I never sat in when there was discussion around (public relations) contracts," she said.

Labour’s Presidential candidate Michael D Higgins, who as one of the shortest candidates was standing on a box throughout the debate, said he may be the one of the shortest candidates in this race, but is still a frontrunner.

He said the candidates had "made a beginning" in addressing the key issues of the campaign.

Sean Gallagher agreed, and said the candidates had had "the first half of the debate, about getting from the past to the present". He said he now wished to move on to the future, and in particular tackling the jobs crisis.


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