DAVID Norris was set to officially withdraw from the presidential race today, sources close to the senator have revealed.
The news came as three of his supporters -- Independent TDs Finian McGrath, John Halligan and Thomas Pringle -- all formally withdrew their support today.
Despite pledging to battle on, Mr Norris has privately conceded that his campaign is in tatters.
The Herald has learned that Mr Norris informed his close supporters last night that he will take the decision to pull out.
Mr Norris now has the support of just 11 TDs and senators -- many of which are believed to be wavering.
His campaign dissolved into crisis over the weekend after it emerged he had pleaded with an Israeli court for clemency for his former lover, Ezra Yitzhak Nawi, who was convicted for the statutory rape of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy.
And it further emerged today that Mr Norris sent a series of letters to Israeli political and judicial figures, pleading for mercy on behalf of Mr Nawi.
The embattled senator spent the weekend phoning backers to gauge their level of support.
He was expected to announce his departure at a press conference later today.
A source close to the senator told the Herald: "The pressure has just been mounting since Saturday and David has realised he no longer has the support. He has privately conceded that he has no option but to withdraw."
Waterford Independent TD John Halligan told the Herald that Mr Norris showed a "severe error of judgement".
"We have to ask ourselves this, if this was a child in the Irish system there would be uproar if a politician made representation.
"It is with deep regret that I withdraw my support but I feel, after talking to my supporters, that I have no other option. I wish him the best of luck but what he has done is not excusable.
"The office of the President must be beyond reproach"
Meanwhile, Donegal South West Independent Thomas Pringle told the Herald that he contacted the senator last night to inform him of his decision.
"Although I feel there has been an orchestrated campaign against Senator Norris, the revelations this weekend are just too much for me," he said.
"But ultimately I feel that had I been aware of this letter, then I don't believe I would have supported him," he added.
And in a major blow, one of Mr Norris's strongest supporters, Dublin North Central's Finian McGrath, stated that "children and the Presidency have to come first".
"The wisest thing to do for David would be to withdraw from the campaign and reflect on the whole situation," he said.
"We cannot have a situation where any tolerance of abuse of children is in anyway overlooked," he added.
Mr McGrath had been co-ordinating Mr Norris' campaign to get the signatures of the 20 Oireachtas members the senator needs to get his name on the ballot paper.
Five Oireachtas members -- Senator Sean Barrett, Dublin Central TD Maureen O'Sullivan, Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly, Wexford TD Mick Wallace and Senator John Crown -- have all confirmed their support for him this weekend.
Mr Norris yesterday pulled out as guest presenter of TV3's Vincent Browne programme this week. He was due to present the programme tonight.
Sam Smyth will host the programme instead.
Read Eamon Keane - Page 15 Anna Nolan - Page 25