A Green with links to the Ulster Unionist Party; 'George'; a former RTÉ producer; a Sinn Féin spin doctor; the son of a political maestro; and a man who has pledged to follow the opinions of those who use his revolutionary website; make for a motley crew contesting the Dublin South by-election.

Last week, Labour's Alex White looked like Ferrari's Michael Schumacher in the Formula One championship a few years ago. Since last October, Labour's car was the only realistic participant in the race and nobody was going to stop him.

Fine Gael looked as if they could not even find a driver for the Blueshirt car. But a week really is a long time in politics. Enter George Lee. He is now the bookies' clear favourite to win the late Seamus Brennan's vacant Dáil seat.

Despite neglecting to answer calls from the Sunday Tribune and getting a state-employed RTÉ press officer to deny that the broadcaster would be losing its economics editor to politics, George Lee finally went public about his intentions to stand for Fine Gael last Tuesday morning.

Local party activists are now boldly predicting that Lee may even win the seat with a landslide on the first count. Councillor Jim O'Leary, who pulled out of the race to allow Lee seek the nomination, said there is no grassroots' resentment to the 'celebrity candidate'.

He said: "Everyone in the constituency is behind George Lee, from the constituency workers to TDs Alan Shatter and Olivia Mitchell. We see it is as another factor in increasing Fine Gael's momentum nationally and this could even give us a few percentage points in national polls.

"If he does not win the seat in the first count, he will only be a few hundred votes off and I expect that he will get over 20,000 first preferences. His biggest advantage is that people trust him. He is very credible and it demeans him to call him a celebrity candidate."

It is hard to look beyond Lee as the favourite as Dublin South is a Fine Gael heartland that has returned three Fine Gael TDs out five in the past.

Election analyst Sean Donnelly said: "Dublin South has a tradition of electing high-profile candidates and then rejecting them in later elections. This was done in 1987 when PD candidate Anne Colley topped the poll with 11,957 votes and in 1992 when Labour's Eithne Fitzgerald topped the poll with 17,256 votes."

Donnelly believes that Shay Brennan's transfers will be important on count day as Lee and White will be the last two standing and Brennan's transfers could decide the seat.

Conventional wisdom would suggest Brennan's transfers will not cross the political divide to Fine Gael. But Donnelly pointed out that convention is broken in by-elections and Brennan's transfers may go to Lee as the electorate may identify with the 'George Lee brand' regardless of him standing for Fine Gael.

White remains upbeat. "George is a high-profile and a formidable opponent but it is important in politics to stay focused on your own message and plan. Our campaign is about a ground war and continuing to meet people in the constituency," he said.

"I don't think that running for election should ever be seen as doing the people a favour and this was part of the message at his campaign launch. I don't believe that is the way politics works or should work. I think George is a good journalist but I don't think he is best person to represent Dublin South in 2009.

"It has elements of a stunt about it… I don't think it is right to elevate this election to some form of celebrity contest."

Transfers from White elected minister Eamon Ryan in the 2007 general election, so White hopes that Green transfers could elect him if he is close to Lee after the first count.

Fianna Fáil's Shay Brennan is "not fazed" by the arrival of Lee into the race and is focused on his own campaign. "It's been a whirlwind few days and it is going to be a 24/7 campaign until 5 June. This is the 10th election for our team so we are able to get organised at short notice."

The Greens' Elizabeth Davidson has the rare distinction of canvassing for the Green party in the south and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in the north in the course of a diverse political career.

She used to live in Derry and she helped out with her husband Andrew's 1998 Northern Ireland Assembly election campaign in the Foyle constituency.

She polled 1,546 first preferences in Dublin South-West in the 2007 general election and claimed the Greens are not getting an anti-government backlash at the doors.

Sinn Féin candidate Shaun Tracey said: "We are working on building the party in the constituency, and for the first time we have candidates standing in the local elections in each of the four electoral wards in the constituency."

Independent Ross O'Mullane is attempting to reform Irish politics by strictly following the opinions of the users of his website www.unitedminds.ie if he is elected.