Kenny urges councillors not to block Norris, Dana
Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night signalled to Fine Gael councillors not to block David Norris and Dana Rosemary Scallon in their bid to get on the presidential election ticket.
The reversal of his party's stance on not helping any Independent candidate is a boost for the chances of the Independent senator and the former MEP.
Mr Norris and Ms Scallon are seeking the backing of four councils to secure nominations for the presidential election.
And Mr Norris is also just three names short of getting on to the presidential election ticket via the Oireachtas.
But Ms Scallon has no hope of getting nominated by TDs and senators and is solely dependent on the support of councillors.
Just a fortnight ago, Fine Gael reiterated its orders to councillors not to facilitate the nomination of Independent candidates.
The party stressed there was no change to its position regarding the presidential elections.
"The party selected its candidate Gay Mitchell MEP on July 9. Our instruction to City/County Councillors is clear. That advice is: 'that all local elected representatives (City/Council/ Town) are expected to support the party's candidate and not to facilitate any other candidate in their quest for a presidential nomination'," the party said in a statement.
A batch of councils is due to vote over the coming days on nominating Mr Norris and Ms Scallon.
Mr Kenny gave a clear signal to his councillors that they had his blessing to step back and simply abstain when the matter is being voted on.
"Fine Gael councillors around the country will not be receiving any further instruction from me. They have abstained in all of these so far, we're not supporting any other candidate other than our own," he said.
Mr Norris has now secured 17 nominations from TDs and senators. But he still needs another three Oireachtas members to give him the 20 names he requires.
Nine TDs and senators are still in a position to nominate Mr Norris. But last night, two of these categorically ruled themselves out of the frame and the remainder are not stepping forward to nominate the senator.
Seamus Healy TD, and Senator Ronan Mullen have stated firmly they will not be giving Mr Norris their signature.