Rapist was still Norris lover four years after conviction
David Norris had a relationship with convicted rapist Ezra Yitzhak Nawi for almost 30 years and the couple were together until 2001 – four years after his partner’s conviction for having sex with a 15-year-old Palestinian boy.
Senator Norris told a Foreign Affairs Committee in 2006 that he was proud of his former partner of “nearly 30 years Ezra Yitzhak, whose work in the villages around south Hebron was seen by the committee on its visit to the area”.
The presidential hopeful, who has been unavailable for comment since it emerged at the weekend that he wrote letters appealing for clemency for Mr Yikzhak on Seanad headed paper, gave an interview to journalist Joe Jackson for the Sunday Independent in 2002.
In it he said that his relationship with Mr Nawi had lasted 26 years and ended in 2001. The letters to the Israeli court after Mr Nawi’s conviction for statutory rape in 1997, do not mention that the pair were former lovers.
Senator Norris’s presidential hopes have all but vanished as three of his key backers withdrew their support over the controversy.
Independent TDs Finian McGrath, John Halligan and Thomas Pringle made the move after it emerged that he wrote a letter in support of his former partner who was facing jail after having sex with a teenage boy.
It means that Mr Norris now only has the public support of 11 TDs and senators -- and needs nine more to get into the race.
He had been expected to hold a press conference to try to salvage his campaign by answering questions about his letter, which was on Seanad notepaper.
But he was dealt a severe blow by the departure of three supporters in advance -- and it is now highly unlikely he will be able to recruit new backers.
Mr McGrath told the Irish Independent last night that Mr Norris was disappointed when he told him of his decision.
"He apologised for the anxiety of the last few days," he said.
Independent Waterford TD John Halligan said Mr Norris was a decent man who had done "great work". But he said it was a great error to write the letter to the Israeli authorities appealing for leniency for his former partner.
"The office of the president must be beyond reproach and so, after consulting with my supporters, I have decided it would be inappropriate of me to support his bid," he said.
Independent Donegal South West TD Thomas Pringle last night said if he had known about Mr Norris's letter in support of a man convicted of statutory rape beforehand, he wouldn't have supported him.
"This decision was not taken lightly," he said.
Mr Norris has made no public comment since the publication of letters showing he had sought clemency for Ezra Yizhak Nawi, then 45, who was convicted of having sex with a 15-year-old boy.
Last night, Mr Norris's supporters were mounting a desperate lobbying campaign to keep his presidential bid alive as he prepares to publicly explain why he sought clemency for Nawi.
His supporters have appealed to people to start emailing TDs and senators to persuade them to allow him into the race.
The administrator of his official Facebook page asked them to use a website which allows them to contact all TDs and senators at the click of a button.
Mr Norris will also not host TV3's 'Tonight with Vincent Browne' show this week as had been planned -- as he pulled out at short notice last night.
Mr Norris's campaign manager Liam McCabe could not be contacted. His campaign team has been left in disarray following the resignation of the communications director Jane Cregan, director of elections Derek Murphy and at least eight other members.
But there were two Independent TDs who firmly stood by Mr Norris last night. Independent Dublin Central TD Maureen O'Sullivan said Mr Norris had been determined to carry on when she last spoke to him.
Independent Wexford TD Mick Wallace also said that it would be "tough going" for Mr Norris to get the nomination.
Although Mr Wallace is still supporting Mr Norris, he said he was wrong to plead for clemency for his former partner Ezra Yizhak Nawi.