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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Norris faces court over his PR bill

Senator in €30,000 bill wrangle following failed Aras bid on which he spent over €330,000


SENATOR and failed presidential candidate David Norris is locked in a dispute with one of his former key campaign advisers over an outstanding election debt, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Mr Norris is being pursued by the Dublin public relations firm owned by consultant Paul Allen over the non-payment of more than €30,000 relating to services rendered during his election campaign last year.

He retained Mr Allen's firm, Paul Allen and Associates Public Relations, to act as his public relations director during the presidential campaign.

Based on official records published by Mr Norris's campaign director Liam McCabe in December, two payments totalling €61,710 were made to Mr Allen's firm. A further amount of €30,008 is now in dispute between the parties.

Mr Allen claims that this money was agreed and is owed to him. Speaking to this newspaper, he said: "It is on public record that there is money outstanding which is owed to my firm.

"It is up to Mr Norris to explain exactly why it hasn't been paid; you'll need to talk to him."

Mr Allen also said that he expected this matter to be resolved quickly or he would take further action. But this weekend, the matter appears to be heading for the courts.

Speaking outside his home on Friday morning, Senator Norris confirmed the dispute and hinted that it had already become a legal matter.

"Yes, there is an issue and the court records will reflect it (the dispute). I'm sorry I have nothing else to say," he told the Sunday Independent.

Mr McCabe yesterday said that he was no longer involved with the matter and therefore it would be inappropriate for him to comment.

"I don't mean to be rude but my function is over, as the campaign is over," he said.

For much of the early campaign, Mr Norris was the runaway favourite of the Irish people for the position of President. However, his campaign was damaged when letters emerged, written in the 1990s, in which he appealed for clemency for his former lover Ezra Nawi, who was facing criminal charges for child abuse at the time.

Following the controversy, Mr Norris initially withdrew from the race but later re-entered, only to finish in fifth position with just 6.9 per cent of first-preference votes.

Mr Norris spent €331,974 during the campaign while only receiving €17,929 in donations from the public, according to the Standards in Public Office (Sipo) records, which were published last week.

As he failed to attract a minimum 12 per cent of first-preference votes, he didn't qualify for a refund of up to €200,000 from the taxpayer and is now left carrying the weight of a sizeable debt.

Mr Norris' ability to cope with the election debt had been in doubt even before polling day when he admitted that he had limited personal resources.

"I don't have great savings, I have spent myself already almost to the limit. I am going into my overdraft," he said during an election debate.

The Sipo records filed by Mr Norris contained some interesting expenses, including flying one of his team to the United States for research reasons at a cost of €2,700.

There is also a mention of a €1,046 spend on childcare costs for volunteers, €1,300 on pottery and over €22,000 on legal fees.

Another independent candidate, Mary Davis, who finished in last place, spent an incredible €94,302 on press, publicity and photography during the campaign, including a €41,140 spend on Q4 Public Relations, a company that had close links to Bertie Ahern's Fianna Fail.

In total, she spent €414,041 on her failed campaign.

During the race, she said she and her husband had taken out a personal loan to help fund her campaign.

Sunday Independent

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