Norris presses for Independents' support as he kicks off Aras bid
THE massive number of Independent TDs in the new Dail could be enough to propel Senator David Norris into the official race for the Presidency.
Mr Norris will kick the presidential election off in earnest today when he launches the campaign he hopes will get him to Aras an Uachtarain.
The election is expected to take place in October, but Mr Norris -- the early favourite in recent polls -- has to be formally nominated before his name appears on the ballot paper.
He must secure the support of 20 Oireachtas members or four county councils to do this, and this previously meant securing the backing of one of the major political parties.
But the 19 Independent deputies elected to the 31st Dail could help his cause and he is already canvassing them for support.
Although Mr Norris was not available for comment last night, his campaign staff said he was hopeful of securing a good deal of support from the Independent benches.
As an Independent senator for Trinity College, Mr Norris will also be able to support himself, and the upcoming Seanad elections are likely to throw up more Independent members of the Upper House.
His spokesman said he would outline the principles he would be campaigning on at his launch in Dublin this morning. He added that, although he would welcome the support of a political party, he is insisting on running as an Independent.
Independent TD Finian McGrath said he had been asked for support by Mr Norris as far back as six months ago.
"He asked me and I said I'd consider it," Mr McGrath said.
It comes as the Labour Party also moves this week to start selecting its presidential nominee, with former TD Michael D Higgins and Barnardos CEO and former party adviser Fergus Finlay expected to compete for the nomination.
Dublin Central TD Joe Costello will tomorrow formally ask his parliamentary party to get the process of picking its nominee under way.
"We always said that we would look at it once the general election was finished and I think we should start planning for it now," Mr Costello said.
Mr Costello is supporting Mr Higgins, and the ex-Galway West TD last night said he was confident of securing the support of his parliamentary party.
Fianna Fail is expected to put up a candidate, with Ireland South MEP Brian Crowley, mentioned.
In the Fine Gael camp, Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness has been linked to the position as has former Taoiseach John Bruton, although neither has made a commitment either way.
There has been speculation that Fine Gael and Labour could agree on a common candidate, with Mr Higgins popular among his party's coalition partners.