John McNulty WILL consider taking a seat in the Seanad if he wins next week's by-election - despite pulling out of the race three days ago.
The Fine Gael candidate has been flooded with calls from TDs and Senators asking him to re-enter the race since his withdrawal.
This morning Today FM can exclusively reveal that McNulty will consider accepting the seat, and becoming a member of the Seanad, if he emerges as the winner of the election in a week's time.
The twist comes eleven days after Today FM first revealed that McNulty had been appointed to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, only six days before filing his Seanad paperwork - in what opposition TDs saw as an attempt to artificially bolster his credentials for Seanad election. The government insists the two appointments were unrelated.
McNulty could still win the Seanad election - despite pulling out three days ago - because his withdrawal came too late to take him off the ballot paper.
The only way to 'withdraw' from the election, therefore, was to ask TDs and Senators not to vote for him.
But it's believed a significant number of ballot papers have already been returned, with McNulty winning many votes from Fine Gael and Labour members.
Furthermore, a number of Fianna Fáil members are also believed to have voted for Mr McNulty - on the basis that his victory would trigger another by-election, and prolong the disruption for the government.
And having been flooded with calls from TDs and Senators, asking him to get back into the hunt, Today FM can this morning reveal that McNulty has given thought to the possibility of accepting the seat, if he were to win it.
McNulty now considered hot favourite
Sources close to McNulty admit that he would consider taking the seat if he were to somehow win the election anyway - in spite of any legal consequences that could arise.
This might include a judicial review from his opponent Gerard Craughwell, who originally contested McNulty's credentials for the election, only to withdraw his objection when hearing of McNulty's membership of the board of IMMA.
Those sources close to McNulty insisted the prospect of the Donegal man still winning the seat was "unthinkable" - but that is not the attitude of the bookmakers, with one bookie yesterday making McNulty its 1/2 favourite for the seat.
Such is the size of the government's majority in the Dáil, that McNulty could comfortably win the seat if he receives a healthy chunk of the Fine Gael and Labour vote - while the apparent support of Fianna Fáil members would make it much easier for McNulty to build an unassailable lead.
Even if the government members were to desert McNulty, the other candidates - independent Gerard Craughwell and Sinn Féin's Catherine Seeley - would need to give each other significant transfers to catch him.
There is also a perception in Leinster House that Fine Gael would privately hope to win the election anyway - on the basis that a McNulty victory would trigger a fresh by-election and pave the way for Fine Gael to choose another untainted candidate for the seat. This would ensure the government's wafer-thin majority in the Seanad is maintained.
But how the party would react to McNulty accepting the seat is another matter - with Enda Kenny publicly stating, on Tuesday, that it "would not be worthy to win [the Seanad] seat in these circumstances".