Irish independent senator David Norris is ahead in the race for the Irish presidency, an opinion poll predicts.

The gay politician was favoured by 27 per cent of the 1,001 people surveyed by Red C for Paddy Power.

Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness was on 13 per cent, while former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was on 12 per cent.

Mr Norris is a former academic with almost 25 years of political experience.

Speaking to the Guardian in October, he said that if he were elected president, he would use the ensuing media attention to “sell Ireland”.

He said: “Anybody else elected as president of Ireland I don’t think is going to get the same kind of sensational news coverage. And I think that’s splendid, because if I went to Washington as president every single news channel will be there hungry for a story.

“I have been around long enough to deal with that story with dignity and then move on to talk about Ireland, to sell our country.”

Mr Norris added that he was not fearful of media attention on his private life, saying: “I have lived a decent, respectable life, and there has been no scandal.”

In October, two other polls put him at the front of the race to succeed current president Mary MacAleese in the autumn.