Sunday 19 November 2017

Pressure on Norris to release seven clemency letters as Mattie McGrath says no

Senator dealt big blow as McGrath refuses support

David Norris: under
pressure to reveal letters
David Norris: under pressure to reveal letters

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

SENATOR David Norris will come under huge pressure to reveal the contents of seven letters he wrote seeking clemency for his former lover if he is confirmed as an official presidential candidate this week.

Rival camps last night said they still expected Mr Norris to be on the ballot paper for the October 27 election but that a major question mark had arisen over his campaign as a result of his refusal to release the controversial letters.

Mr Norris's opponents warned they would press the issue if, as expected, the Trinity senator got a nomination.

His hopes of getting the 20 Oireachtas signatures he needs to secure his place on the ballot paper suffered a major blow last night when Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath decided not to nominate him after consulting his local supporters.

Three-quarters of Mr McGrath's election workers voted no in a secret ballot.

Independent deputies Noel Grealish and Michael Lowry, who could support Mr Norris, did not return calls last night, although they are not expected to back him.

However, it is expected the senator will secure the support of four county councils before Wednesday's noon deadline.

But the emergence of seven fresh letters is expected to lead to councillors asking questions of Mr Norris if he appears before them.

The letters were sent to senior Irish and Israeli politicians -- including then-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and president Ezer Weisman -- after Ezra Nawi was charged with the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy in 1997.

Last night, the Norris camp said the seven letters were "practically the same" as that which he wrote on headed Seanad Eireann notepaper to members of the Israeli judiciary about the case.

Controversy over the letter forced Mr Norris's original withdrawal from the presidential race in August. However, Mr Norris has refused to release the seven letters. His spokesman last night denied the letter made public on the issue was the "softest" he wrote, amid suggestions the other seven letters contained more controversial views on underage sex.

Labour sources said they would make an issue of the letters.

Opinion polls show Mr Norris leading the field on 21pc, followed closely by Labour's Michael D Higgins on 18pc, and a party strategist warned they would call on Mr Norris to release all the letters he wrote.

"All the information that is there must be put into the public domain," the source said.

Mr Norris was at his home in North Great George's St, Dublin, yesterday but declined to answer questions.

A spokesman for Mr Norris said the additional seven letters would not be released.

Charlie Flanagan, director of elections for Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell, said nothing had changed since Mr Norris pulled out of the race after the first letter became public.

A spokesman for Independent candidate Sean Gallagher said it was up to Mr Norris to decide whether or not to release the letters, "against the backdrop that he is running for office".

Meanwhile, Fine Gael sources said they would be continuing to focus on Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.

"We'll be focusing on McGuinness first and then highlighting Mary Davis, who's avoided major scrutiny so far," one of those in the Mitchell camp said, adding they wanted to focus on the number of state boards Ms Davis sits on, calling her the "quango queen".

This charge was rejected by a spokeswoman for Ms Davis.

Irish Independent

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