'I can't be the person to stop Norris, but I'm backing Higgins'
Before revealing to the Sunday Independent that he would sign nomination papers for David Norris to contest the presidential election, Shane Ross, the Independent TD for South Dublin rang another candidate, Michael D Higgins.
"I spoke to Michael D. this morning," said Mr Ross, "he was extraordinarily generous and said it would be wrong of me to take any other course than to facilitate David Norris getting into the race -- he gave me his approval, he encouraged me to do it."
Mr Ross became the 18th Oireachtas member to agree to sign Mr Norris' papers -- bringing the Trinity College Joycean scholar and senator within inches of an Oireachtas nomination to officially enter the contest.
Mr Norris needs 20 members of the Oireachtas to sign his papers before he can officially enter the election.
"I am doing it because I don't want to be the person to obstruct him getting on the ticket," said Mr Ross last night.
"I hate the electoral system and didn't want to nominate anyone . . . but if I was not to nominate, I would be stopping him.
"I never had any intention of nominating David Norris, but now it is a matter of not obstructing him. I can't be the person to stop him, but I don't do it with any enthusiasm.
"I am going to be supporting Michael D Higgins in the presidential election, I will be canvassing for him," he said.
"I have known Michael D Higgins for 30 years in politics, and I have never come across a politician with such passion or conviction," said Mr Ross. "I don't share his views in most cases, but he is a rare political animal and would make an excellent President of Ireland."
It may seem ironic that by nominating Mr Norris he may be damaging the chances of the candidate he wants to support -- but Mr Ross believes that it is the will of the people, as shown by opinion polls, that Mr Norris should be allowed enter the race.
There has been considerable jockeying among the Independents on the issue and many of them have come under pressure from constituents to jump one way or the other.
But Mr Ross, who served as a Trinity senator with Mr Norris for many years, denied that he was taking the decision under any pressure or that he had been waiting to be 'the last man in'.
He said he spoke to many constituents in south Dublin, but in the end decided that he should not be held responsible for Mr Norris's exclusion.