INDEPENDENT Senator David Norris now has the backing of 17 members of the Oireachtas – just three short of the 20 names required to get him on the ballot paper for the Presidential election.
As momentum builds behind his comeback, Mr Norris has opened up two fronts in a bid to ensure his name appears on the ballot paper on October 27.
Senators Mary Ann O’Brien and Eamon Coughlan signed Mr Norris’s papers this morning – he has already received the public backing of 15 TDs and senators.
The pressure is now on uncommitted TDs to allow him into the race ahead of the deadline for nominations, which is noon next Wednesday, September 28.
A second avenue for both Mr Norris and Dana Rosemary Scallon to get on the ballot paper has also dramatically re-opened, with a string of county councils meeting next week to consider supporting Independent candidates.
It comes just weeks after Mr Norris withdrew from the race when it emerged he had penned a letter to Israeli authorities seeking clemency for his former lover Ezra Nawi, who was convicted of raping a 15-year-old Palestinian boy.
One of the TDs who withdrew his support from Mr Norris over the letter, John Halligan, last night signed his nomination papers, citing the massive support for him in the country and his Waterford constituency.
Mr Halligan was one of a number of Oireachtas members who were lobbied furiously by Mr Norris in Leinster House yesterday, and the senator is scheduled to meet more TDs and senators today.
Another TD, Donegal South-West's Thomas Pringle, said his position had not yet changed since he withdrew his support for Mr Norris over the letter. But he said he would be meeting Mr Norris this afternoon and would make his position known afterwards.
Tipperary South's Mattie McGrath is also now in play, and said he would be making a decision over the weekend on whom to back.
Independent senator Katherine Zappone yesterday announced she would be nominating Mr Norris, even though she would be voting for Labour's Michael D Higgins.
After receiving written assurances from Mr Norris that no other issues would emerge from his past that could derail his campaign, she said she was nominating him in order "to benefit the democratic process".
Senator Fiach Mac Conghail -- who has also previously said he would vote for Mr Higgins -- signed Mr Norris's papers too, as did another independent senator, Marie Louise O'Donnell.
Dana has effectively zero chance of getting the support of 20 Oireachtas members and her only chance is through the council support route.
Mr Norris already has the support of one council, Fingal, and councils in Kilkenny, Carlow, Roscommon, Laois, South Dublin, and Donegal will now consider who to back.
Laois will only be able to back Mr Norris, however, since Dana has come forward too late to get on the motion to be put before the council.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was last night still refusing to give his councillors a free hand to allow independent candidates into the Aras race.
Independent candidate Sean Gallagher, who already has the support of the four councils needed, has asked a number of councils previously supportive of him to back other candidates.
"As soon as I secured the required four nominations, I requested that all motions that would have the effect of nominating me be withdrawn to ensure that other candidates were not prevented from entering into the race," Mr Gallagher said last night.
"I would hope that Mary Davis would follow my lead and constructively assist the two other independent candidates by ensuring that the process is inclusive. I would also appeal to Fine Gael, Sinn Fein and Labour councillors to facilitate other candidates."
A spokeswoman for Mary Davis did not return calls last night.