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Friday 26 May 2017

Norris prospects recede as Martin looks to close door on candidates

Fianna Fail senator Labhras O Murchu outside Leinster House yesterday
Fianna Fail senator Labhras O Murchu outside Leinster House yesterday

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Independent senator David Norris finally made formal steps last night to get help from Fianna Fail to secure a nomination for the presidency.

But Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin will attempt today to end the dissent in his party over its policy on the presidency by killing off nominations for any candidate.

And regardless of the outcome, Mr Norris's prospects of support from Fianna Fail members are pretty slim.

Mr Martin's task of closing off support for nominations has been complicated by Fianna Fail senator Labhras O Murchu insisting he still wants to run and former MEP Dana Rosemary Scallon and Mr Norris also seeking the party's assistance.

Mr Martin met with his deputy leader Eamon O Cuiv yesterday to broker a compromise. The arrival of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness into the race is thought to have brought more realism to the thinking within Fianna Fail.

Mr O Cuiv appears to have pulled back from his stance a week ago that he could not support a position that would see nobody nominated.

Fianna Fail TDs and senators will meet this morning for a crunch meeting following an acrimonious debate last week over how the party would use its 33 nominations.

The wording on the policy to be put before the meeting is expected to be slightly altered from last week's motion, which Mr Martin had to put on ice.

Mr Norris made contact with Mr Martin by phoning his constituency office in Cork yesterday evening, despite the party leader's presence in Dublin being well documented.

The senator's last-minute intervention is in marked contrast to Ms Scallon's direct approach of just sending a letter to Mr Martin 10 days ago.

The Fianna Fail leader is understood to have called Mr Norris back to listen to his request.

The Independent senator badly needs Fianna Fail support to make up the 20 TDs and senators he needs to gain a nomination.

However, Mr Martin will move at the special meeting at 11am in Leinster House to end the talk of any candidate getting a nomination.

Mr O Murchu wants Fianna Fail TDs and senators to be free to nominate whoever they want and is banking on the loyalty of his colleagues securing him enough support.

Running

But the notion of the Fianna Fail senator credibly running as an Independent or as an outside candidate appears to have waned. "There is more of a reality now. It has to be shut down," a party source said.

And a Fianna Fail TD said he was being lobbied not to nominate Mr Norris, but to give his support to Ms Scallon.

"I'm getting calls from people not to support David Norris. Dana's people are then ringing around asking to nominate her. David Norris is not ringing around at all," the TD said.

Mr O Murchu insisted he was pressing ahead with his claim to run as an external candidate.

"Everything will depend on tomorrow's meeting," he said.

Irish Independent

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