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Sunday 25 June 2017

Norris hints at publishing letters of clemency

David Norris: under
pressure to reveal letters
David Norris: under pressure to reveal letters

Fionnan Sheahan and Breda Heffernan

Independent Senator David Norris last night left the door open to publish the letters he wrote for his former lover -- convicted of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy.

But Mr Norris continues to claim that legal advice prevents him from publishing the seven letters of clemency he wrote on behalf of Ezra Nawi -- even edited versions.

The senator said he loved Mr Nawi at the time of his conviction and "still loves him".

Legal experts are casting doubt on the senator's reasons for not releasing the batch of letters, saying he could, at least, publish a version with legally sensitive material blacked out.

But Mr Norris initially ruled out releasing redacted versions of the letters.

"What about the identity of the young lad (the victim) who is now in his mid-30s," he said.

"The next thing they will be saying 'what's blacked out, why can't we see it?'."

The senator then backtracked suggesting he might be forced to release the letters.

"Never say never. I just don't know at the moment but I have to protect vulnerable people. And I've said it from the beginning; collateral damage, it's not fair.

"I'll take it on the chin but I'm not going to stand by and see other people being hit by friendly fire on my behalf. I'll take the bullets," he said on 'The Right Hook' on Newstalk.

Mr Norris said the statutory rape case "changed lives" and "caused deep scars". But he was also vague on whether he would have published the letters without the legal advice.

"That's a question that is impossible to answer, because it's hypothetical and I'd be dishonest if I answered it. Can I just say very honestly I don't know, I can't answer it, I'm sorry I can't answer it and that's an honest answer," he said.

The pressure remains on Mr Norris to publish the letters. Independent presidential candidate Mary Davis said last night it was "only right and proper" that the backgrounds of the contenders be scrutinised.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he wants all presidential election candidates to "lead by example" as pressure continues to mount on Mr Norris to publish all clemency letters he wrote for his former lover.

Upfront

Mr Kenny said he hoped it would be an "open, energetic campaign".

Asked if Mr Norris should publish the legal advice which he claims precludes him from releasing the letters, Mr Kenny said candidates for the Aras should be "upfront".

"The electorate are entitled to ask their questions, they are the ones who are being asked to cast their votes, and they will want answers to questions and, in that regard, everybody should be upfront with it," he added.

While the Taoiseach refused to say if Mr Norris should publish the letters written in 1997 to a number of senior politicians in Ireland and Israel, he said: "I want everybody to lead by example."

Mr Kenny said Fine Gael's candidate Gay Mitchell would officially launch his campaign on Monday and that the party machine would be focusing on putting his credentials before the people.

Irish Independent

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