Friday 24 November 2017

David Norris: I’ll need miracle for fresh Aras bid

Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

Senator David Norris has privately admitted it would take a miracle to launch a fresh bid for the Aras as he urged Independent TDs to back him.

The Independent met privately with non-party deputies for 15 minutes and claimed he wanted to re-enter the campaign amid a groundswell of public support.

But at least two of the four Independent TDs who withdrew their backing in the wake of controversy surrounding his clemency plea for his ex-partner during a rape trial have not reversed their decision.

Dublin North Central TD Finian McGrath said he stands by his decision to withdraw support for the Senator's bid but added that there is some support for Mr Norris in Leinster House.

"I genuinely can't call it at the moment. There is a group of people that would be very supportive of David," he said.

Mr Norris dropped out of the race for the Aras early last month after it emerged he had appealed to Israeli authorities for leniency for his ex-partner who was convicted of statutory rape.

The Independent Senator wrote a letter of clemency in 1997 for Ezra Nawi, who was accused of having sex with a 15-year-old Palestinian boy.

Four Independent TDs who were backing him - Finian McGrath, Catherine Murphy, Thomas Pringle and John Halligan - withdrew their support.

Mr McGrath and Mr Pringle said they were standing by their decision, while Mr Halligan said he would make his views known after consulting advisors.

It is understood Mr Norris accepted in a private address to Independent TDs that it would be a miracle for him to get enough support to stand.

He was also asked about the controversial letter to Israeli authorities, and whether there were any more revelations yet to come, but he said his conscience was clear.

Mr Norris needs the support of 20 TDs and Senators to secure a nomination to run for the presidency.

It has been speculated he has support from about 10 Oireachtas members, and could turn to some Fianna Fail members, who has opted not to field its own candidate, for support.

The Senator is due to appear on The Late Late Show tomorrow night where he has said he will declare his hand. He has refused to comment until then, claiming he has struck an agreement with RTE television.

One of Mr Norris' supporters said his presentation tomorrow night will put pressure on Fianna Fail and other Independent TDs and Senators to back him as he will focus on the public support he has to re-enter the race.

But Mr McGrath said he does not believe he will get support from either Sinn Fein, which will announce its preferred candidate on Saturday, or Fianna Fail.

Sinn Fein's Ard Chomhairle of the party is expected to meet this weekend where the leadership is to recommend fielding a candidate.

Former Northern Ireland agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew has, along with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, been touted as a potential contender, but Mr Adams said there had been no formal decision on who might stand. Rumours that Tyrone GAA boss Mickey Harte will stand for the party have been dismissed.

Mr Adams and Mary Lou McDonald have both ruled themselves out of the race.

Meanwhile, Eurovision winner Dana is expected to meet with Independent TDs to size up support for another attempt at the Aras.

Independents Mary Davis and Sean Gallagher officially became candidates on Monday after each secured the support of at least four councils.

They are on course to fight it out with frontrunner Labour's Michael D Higgins and Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell.

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