Senator David Norris plans to re-enter race for President
Senator to announce new bid after signs of Fianna Fail support
SENATOR David Norris is about to make a sensational declaration to re-enter the race for the presidency, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
Mr Norris reconsidered his decision to withdraw after a consistent outpouring of public support, the urgings by independent TDs and senators and now the dramatic confirmation that some FF Oireachtas members will support his bid for a nomination.
Mr Norris, who returned to Ireland yesterday, will tonight hold a meeting with his advisers, some time after which the announcement is expected, possibly on Friday, when he appears on 'The Late, Late Show'.
As the political choreography of his re-entry was being finalised, a compelling argument emerged in the form of the Fianna Fail support for his candidature.
A senior Fianna Fail figure told the Sunday Independent last night that from a political point of view it would be advantageous to the party.
"We haven't got our own candidate and given the level of public support for Norris I think it would play well to nominate him," he said.
"I think the party leadership would turn a blind eye if some TDs or senators signed his papers.
"It would probably be up to the senators. They know him. He is a colleague," he added.
Fianna Fail TDs and senators are clearly taking a signal from a statement last month by party leader Micheal Martin, who said he believed that potential candidates for the presidency with substantial public support should not be prevented from standing because of the very restrictive nomination process".
A number of left-wing and independent members of the Oireachtas have also signalled their willingness to support his nomination.
A Sunday Independent/ Quantum Research telephone poll shows that 39 per cent want Mr Norris on the ballot paper and 40 per cent would vote for him in the election on October 27. Last week, more than 7,000 people signed an online petition supporting his nomination, with 2,000 more adding their names to a paper petition which was organised in Dublin and Cork in the last two days. Voters formed queues to express support.
Independent deputies Luke 'Ming' Flanagan and Maureen O'Sullivan, as well as two Socialist Party TDs, Joe Higgins, and Clare Daly, will still back the nomination of the Trinity scholar, they told the Sunday Independent this weekend.
Last night, influential Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins said Mr Norris should re-enter the race, adding, "it is up to the Irish people to make the decision, not the media, bloggers etc."
People Before Profit deputy Richard Boyd Barrett also confirmed yesterday that he would support the nomination -- "in the absence of any credible left wing candidate emerging, which now appears very unlikely".
Mr Boyd Barrett declared: "The attack on him has been outrageous and he is certainly the best of the current candidates."
The other People Before Profit Dail deputy, Joan Collins of Dublin South Central, was also expected to endorse his candidacy if asked, while Senator John Crown said that he would definitely support a nomination.
Ms O'Sullivan is also solidly behind his candidature.
"My position did not change. I continued to support his nomination until he withdrew. In my view, it is up to the electorate to decide. I did not stop supporting him. If he came back into the race I would support him. I may be totally wrong but I remain doubtful about whether he will re-enter. I have received hundreds of emails expressing support for him," she said.
A senior Fianna Fail source said: "The public want him on the ballot paper and it would mean that Labour and Fine Gael would not get a clean run of it."
If Fianna Fail members of the Seanad had supported Mr Norris in August, he would have had the requisite numbers by now.
Mr Norris has until September 28 to secure the 20 signatures required under the Presidential Elections Act 1993.
He also has to raise finance. Monies collected for his presidential campaign were returned immediately after he decided on August 2 to abandon his bid.
The need to quickly build a fighting fund to contest a national election means that those closest to Mr Norris are moving toward making an announcement soon rather than waiting until nearer the closing date for nominations.
Left-wing deputies who form the United Left Alliance grouping meet on Tuesday.
Mr Boyd Barrett said he thought it likely that the Socialist Party as well as his party, People Before Profit, would also support Mr Norris.
That was confirmed by Ms Daly, who said: "We would not exactly be on the same wavelength as Senator Norris on a huge range of issues but we believe fervently he has the right to stand."
Mr Crown said: "Senator Norris still has my support. The big difficulty is for him to get the 20 nominations. Personally I fear it is unlikely but I believe the people should decide. My position is that I am not part of his campaign.
"I told him all along that I thought he deserved to be on the ballot paper because of his strengths, because of his popular support and because of the attempts by the political parties to thwart his nomination."
Mr Norris has lost the support of some key independents who originally backed him. Both independent TDs Finian McGrath and Catherine Murphy confirmed they would no longer support his nomination.
But Mr McGrath acknowledged some of his independent colleagues still supported Mr Norris and would like to see him re-enter the race.
He said his gut feeling was that Mr Norris would find it very difficult to get the support of the 20 Oireachtas members he needs to secure a nomination.
According to a Sunday Independent/Quantum Res-earch telephone poll, 39 per cent believed Mr Norris should be on the presidential ballot paper and 40 per cent would vote for him in the election.
In the last Sunday Independent poll, 38 per cent said they would support his re-entry. The consistence of his support is remarkable and suggests that if he was to re-enter the race he would win.
One Fianna Fail TD said: "If David Norris had remained in the race and if he had maintained the support of the independents, I would believe there would have been four or five who would have been prepared to facilitate him in a general way to enter the race.
"That would have found acceptance. Some would have rejected it, including some who would have problems on the Civil Partnership Bill.
"I also think some of the Labour Party would also have supported his nomination purely because they would not like to have been seen as blocking him."