Higgins leading Aras polls with Gallagher second

The battle for the presidency is being billed as a two horse race after separate polls put Michael D Higgins in front with Sean…

The battle for the presidency is being billed as a two horse race after separate polls put Michael D Higgins in front with Sean Gallagher a close second.

The Labour TD has support from about a quarter of the electorate, while shock runner-up, businessman and Dragon’s Den investor, Sean Gallagher has one-fifth.

A dire showing from Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell, between 9-10 per cent, prompted Taoiseach Enda Kenny to call for the party machine to get behind their man - the second rallying cry this week.

“It’s never too late for a candidate to win an election,” he said.

“It’s important that the party understands that this is a presidential election and therefore they have an onus and responsibility to do everything that they can, and get out the Fine Gael vote.”

The results from the Irish Times Ipsos/MRBI were within the 3 per cent margin of error and forecast transfers will decide the next president.

Labour’s Michael D Higgins was on 23-25 per cent and Independent Sean Gallagher on 20-21 per cent, both well ahead of Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness on 16-19 per cent but lacking the ability to attract floating voters or transfers.

Mr Mitchell has slumped to anywhere from fourth to sixth after his support nosedived in the last few weeks.

Pollsters analysing the figures claimed that the winning formula for Mr Higgins and Mr Gallagher may come from the man who captures both young and older voters over the next three weeks.

Other big losers are Senator David Norris following a week of questions about clemency letters he wrote in support of his ex-partner Ezra Nawi and an inability to answer on the controversy in a TV3 debate.

Elsewhere, along the bottom rungs of the polling Mary Davis is sitting between fourth and sixth with 9-12 per cent of the vote, while Dana has a mammoth task on her hands to move off the 5-6 per cent mark.

In the latest poll almost half think that Mr Higgins will win the election regardless of who they want in the Áras.

Mr Higgins said the poll was consistent with the response he was getting on the street.

Opposition to individual candidates was also significant after people were asked who they did not want to see in the Áras - Mr McGuinness polled 34 per cent. Dana and David Norris followed on 18 per cent and 16 per cent.

Further polls are expected in the Irish Times and with Red C for the Sunday Business Post in the final two weeks of the campaign.

The findings of a second presidential poll, released today, revealed similar voting preferences.

The poll, conducted by Red C for bookmaker Paddypower, showed Mr Higgins in pole position with 25 per cent followed by Mr Gallagher on 21 per cent with Mr McGuinness in third on 16 per cent.

Senator Norris was in fourth place with 14 per cent followed by Mr Mitchell on 10 per cent, Ms Davis on 9 per cent and finally Ms Scallon on 5 per cent.