Hume tops Irish presidency poll

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John Hume, the SDLP leader, would be a popular choice to succeed Irish President Mary Robinson, according to a weekend opinion poll.

Mrs Robinson announced last week that she will not run again when her present seven-year term ends in December. Speaking on Irish radio yesterday, she said the Irish government had indicated its support for the idea "of my going forward for the position of UN Commissioner for Human Rights".

Mr Hume was backed by 19 per cent of those questioned in a poll for Dublin's Sunday Independent newspaper. Other names mentioned included the former Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, with 14 per cent; and his predecessor Charles Haughey, with 11 per cent. The former foreign minister, David Andrews, tipped to be the candidate of Fianna Fail, the largest party in the Irish Republic, polled just 8 per cent. No candidates have declared at present.

Mr Hume appeared to rule himself out of the running for the presidency last week when he insisted his priority was to stay in politics in Northern Ireland to help achieve peace and stability there.