Friday 23 February 2018

‘Fighting’ Norris holds talks with FF members

Absence of party candidate leaves senator hopeful of gaining support


IF FIANNA Fail refuses to back David Norris in his presidency bid a critical group of 25 United Left Alliance deputies and independent TDs, senators and Taoiseach's Seanad nominees could yet secure him a nomination.

The independent senator had secured 15 votes with the promise of more to come before he pulled out of the presidential race. But after his “comeback” announced in last week’s Sunday Independent, he is now back in the hunt for support. At his home in Dublin yesterday Mr Norris revealed that he has spoken to individual members of Fianna Fail who he believed will give him a nomination to contest the presidency — if leader Micheal Martin allows a free vote.

And Mr Norris said he will go all the way to September 28, the last date by which nominations can be received, in his battle to secure support of 20 Oireachtas members. In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Independent he admitted that he had lost the support of a number of key independent deputies and senators who were willing to nominate him before he abandoned his bid last month, but he said a significant number still supported him.

He refused to confirm or deny that he needs 12 more signatures. He confirmed that he was seeking Fianna Fail nominations but that was reliant on individual members of the party being given the freedom to nominate who they wished in the absence of an official Fianna Fail candidate. “There is still a week-anda- half to go and I am fighting all the way,” he said yesterday. “As I said last night, It is a fight. It is a poker game. It’s changing every 24 hours.

“The cards can fall in any way. They say a week is a long time in politics. The last while has shown that even one day is a long time in politics. There are two weeks left. That is an eternity. “It’s all to play for. I’m delighted for one thing. I believe that there would not have been a presidential election if I had not pushed my nose in. Despite what happened, it has been a wonderful experience.”

The position of the remainder of Mr Norris's original band of 15 remains unclear. However, the unique political constellation of the current Dail and Seanad indicates that even with the entry of Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness and a possible FF candidate there are a substantial number of independent and small party candidates who could see Mr Norris over the line. One grouping that could play a critical role is five loosely aligned left-wing independents, Richard Boyd Barrett, Joe Higgins, Joan Collins, Seamus Healy and Clare Daly. Mr Norris will hope to retain another six original supporters in Maureen O'Sullivan, Catherine Murphy, Stephen Donnelly, Mick Wallace, Sean Barrett and John Crown.

Another critical sub-group will consist of seven fully independent Taoiseach's nominees for the Seanad in Marie Louise O'Donnell, Mary Ann O'Brien, Katherine Zappone, Fiach MacConghail, Jillian van Turnhout, Aideen Hayden and Eamonn Coghlan. Senator Feargal Quinn, who it is believed supported Sean Gallagher, could now be free on the basis that Mr Gallagher already has a nomination.

It is, however, considered unlikely that, for radically different reasons, either Mr Mullen or Mr McAleese will support Mr Norris. Should Mr Norris still be short of the required numbers, an eclectic group of independent TDs such as Michael Lowry, his former Seanad colleague Shane Ross, Mattie McGrath and Noel Grealish still have not declared for a candidate. To date none of the major political parties have said they will facilitate Mr Norris.

However, if the danger arises that the office of the presidency might be brought into disrepute by an establishment ‘stitch-up' against the most popular candidate the Government may come under pressure to broker a resolution.

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