| 10.8°C Dublin

Higgins accused of stunt as he clears Norris to run

RIVALS have accused Michael D Higgins of trying to pull an early election stunt by clearing the path for David Norris's nomination.

The Labour candidate made the usual step of asking city councillors from his party not to vote against Mr Norris.

But sources in Fine Gael believe that Mr Higgins was "merely trying to capitalise on Norris transfers rather than promote democracy".

Labour has the most councillors on Dublin City Council and could therefore have derailed the senator's presidential ambitions last night.

However, Mr Higgins said that his closest rival in recent opinion polls should be allowed to enter.

In a hastily called meeting, the candidate informed his councillors of his opinion that the "prevailing circumstances" meant Mr Norris should be on the ballot. Labour allowed a free vote and Mr Norris went on to win the vote by 30 to six, with 11 abstentions.

Fine Gael sources told the Herald today that Mr Higgins's intervention was "a calculated one" that came at a time when the nomination was becoming a foregone conclusion.

"It's obvious that this election is going to be won on transfers. Higgins was clearly reaching out for those transfers last night," said a source.