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Favourite Norris struggles to win support

HE is currently the people's favourite in the race, but David Norris still faces an uphill battle to secure a nomination to run.

The success of Independent presidential hopefuls Mary Davis and Sean Gallagher in securing support from councillors is being put down to intense personal canvassing.

Unlike Independent Senator Norris, Ms Davis and Mr Gallagher are running Seanad-election style campaigns meeting councillors in their homes.

But Mr Norris is simply sending letters, making phone calls and turning up at council meetings.

The Independent senator is still ahead in the race to succeed President Mary McAleese in October -- but he's struggling to secure a nomination.

Independent candidates need a nomination from four local authorities or 20 Oireachtas members in order to get on the ticket.

Mr Norris is falling short on both fronts.

So far Mr Norris has only gotten the backing of one local authority, while Ms Davis has six councils and Mr Gallagher five.

Ms Davis continues to travel the country and already has the backing of the councils in Louth, Monaghan, Mayo, Limerick, Kerry and North Tipperary.

Mr Gallagher has support from Longford, Donegal, Roscommon, Clare and Leitrim.

Crucially, both candidates met in person with the local councillors before addressing their meeting.

The latest poll showed Mr Norris on 25pc, followed by Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell on 21pc and Labour's Michael D Higgins on 18pc.

Mr Gallagher was on 13pc and Ms Davis on 12pc in 'The Irish Times'/Ipsos MRBI poll, which also put Fianna Fail's Eamon O Cuiv on 11pc.

The poll also showed 28pc of the voters were undecided and Mr Higgins attracted the most transfers.

Mr Norris will this morning make an announcement on the Oireachtas nominations process. His campaign is not saying how many TDs and senators are backing his nomination, but he does not have the 20 required.

Mr Higgins last night insisted he was the best man for the job.

Speaking at the launch of his latest collection of poetry at the National Library, he said he was the man with the wider experience.

"I believe that Senator Norris is a very fine man -- he is a genuine human rights activist; he was on the foreign affairs committee with me; he represented Trinity very well in the Senate; but I believe that I'm the better candidate insofar as I've a wider experience and I believe that I can probably bring that bit more to the presidency."

Meanwhile, Mr Mitchell has made his first appointment to his campaign team.

Former Green Party spokesman in government, John Downing, has become his campaign press officer.

Irish Independent