| 17.7°C Dublin

FF shutout to scupper new Norris Aras bid


SENATOR David Norris's efforts to re-enter the presidential race last night appeared doomed before they even took off -- with Fianna Fail unlikely to provide the signatures needed to get him on the ballot paper.

As Mr Norris returned to Ireland from holiday, Fianna Fail TDs and senators -- whose signatures he needs to get into the election proper -- firmly shot down the idea of backing him.

Without Fianna Fail backing, the Trinity senator effectively has no chance of getting in the race.

The deadline for nominations is September 28, leaving little time to try the alternate route of securing the support of four county councils.

One FF senator said: "I wouldn't sign his nomination papers if you put them in front of me in the morning."

Fianna Fail senators, in particular, are angry with Mr Norris over the way he handled an offer of support they made to him during the summer.

The offer came before the controversy over a letter Mr Norris wrote to Israeli authorities seeking clemency for his former partner, Ezra Nawi, who was convicted of raping a 15-year-old Palestinian boy.

The controversy led him to withdraw from the contest in August, but sources said informal contacts before that were rebuffed in a dismissive way.

"He thought he didn't need us then, that he would get the 20 anyway and he basically thumbed his nose at us," one senator said.

"Well, he can think twice if he's looking our support now," he added.

Another said he was "rude enough" and "didn't engage" when the offer was made.

After the contacts, the Fianna Fail group in the Seanad met in July to discuss signing his nomination papers formally, and this was rejected by the group of 14 senators.

Senator Mark Daly said the situation had changed completely even since then, and whatever chance there was of backing Mr Norris disappeared when the Nawi letter came to light.

Fianna Fail TDs were also dismissive last night, after being burnt by the party's flirtation with broadcaster Gay Byrne. "He hasn't a snowball's chance," said one.

Some senators are also uncomfortable with Mr Norris's views on the age of consent, and fear more controversies could emerge were he to re-enter the race.

Meath senator Thomas Byrne said any presidential strategy would have to be discussed before the parliamentary party, but added: "I couldn't see how the party could back Senator Norris given the letter that came to light."

Even Mr Norris's strongest supporter on the Independent benches, Dublin Central TD Maureen O'Sullivan, said: "He won't be getting 20 signatures from the Independents, it would have to come from Fianna Fail but I don't know if they will support him."


Ms O'Sullivan said she had not spoken to him about a possible re-entry but said he understood she would support him anyway.

A spokesman for FF leader Micheal Martin said the parliamentary party would discuss allowing TDs or senators back individual candidates themselves if an approach was made.

Although it is not due to be discussed formally, the issue is likely to surface at the two-day FF parliamentary party think-in in Tallaght, which begins today.

Singer Dana has also been peppering Fianna Fail TDs and senators with phone calls seeking support, although she is unlikely to be successful.

Logistically, Mr Norris currently has no campaign team around him after a raft of resignations following the Nawi letter, when a string of Independent TDs also withdrew their support.

Campaign donations are also understood to have been refunded.

Jane Cregan, Mr Norris's former communications director, was one of a number of staff who resigned the weekend his campaign imploded over the revelations of the letter he wrote to the Israeli authorities.

Ms Cregan -- one of the closest members of the Norris inner circle during the campaign -- said she had heard nothing about relaunching the presidency bid.

"I haven't spoken to anyone since I left the campaign," she said, while also confirming she would not be rejoining the campaign.

His campaign manager, Liam McCabe, was coy and would not speak much about relaunching the bid.

"All I can say is he is back in the country this weekend," Mr McCabe said.

"This is his decision and a decision for him to make. There is no campaign, I don't have anything more to say."

Mr Norris is also due to appear on 'The Late Late Show' this Friday.

Irish Independent