The latest opinion poll in the Presidential Election suggests that Michael D Higgins has a significant lead over the other candidates in the race.

The Sunday Business Post RED C poll surveyed 1,000 voters from Thursday 11 October up to Wednesday 17 October and the poll findings are in line with other voter surveys carried out in the last fortnight.

It suggests that Mr Higgins support stands at 68%.

Next is Seán Gallagher on 12% with Liadh Ní Riada on 9%.

Joan Freeman's support is gauged at 6% and Gavin Duffy's at 3%, with Peter Casey on 2% support.

The poll was conducted after Mr Casey's comments about Travellers were published and therefore the full impact of that controversy may not be reflected in this poll.

Meanwhile, President Higgins, has repeated an assertion - made in a television debate this week - that security reasons were behind a decision to  travel to Belfast by private jet for an engagement earlier this year.

During the Virgin Media debate he had said his staff had been advised "that for security reasons he couldn't be picked up at the border".

Yesterday, the BBC reported PSNI sources which appeared to contradict the President's stated reason for using air transport.

A spokesman for Áras an Uachtaráin said that for logistical reasons and on security advice, the President used the Government plane to travel to Belfast in May to deliver a lecture. 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he does not believe the President is a person who is "given to extravagance" or the "trappings of office."

Deputy Martin said in his view, "details like that, can't take from the broader analysis" of Mr Higgins' presidency, which he described as being very effective.

He added that President Higgins has conducted himself with great dignity.