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Norris under fire over 7 new clemency letters

DAVID Norris was under pressure to release seven new clemency letters before a series of councils voted on his suitability to be president.

The senator will frantically continue to lobby councillors across the country for their support with the deadline for nomination now just three days away.

His attempts to secure a place on the ballot paper suffered a setback last night after Independent TD Mattie McGrath refused to back him.

The Tipperary TD put the proposal to support Norris in front of his supporters but it was defeated by 53 votes to 18.

It means the Trinity senator is still two signatures shy of the 20 required to secure his place in the official campaign.

Speaking today, Deputy McGrath said that he had no option but to listen to his supporters.

"We had a full debate for over two hours and we had a secret ballot. I believe the decision reflects the views in South Tipperary.

"I would maybe have tried to persuade them [to support Mr Norris]. But they're my eyes and ears on the ground. Without them I wouldn't have been elected.

"They're the people I depend on, I value their support." Mr Norris is now expected to individually phone councillors across the country today, with the hope that he can secure the support of three further local authorities.


He will also contact the Dail deputies who have not yet given a firm decision on the issue, as well as gauging whether he can persuade those who have previously refused to back him.

However, fears have been raised today that the revelations that Mr Norris wrote at least seven further letters of clemency on behalf of his former lover, Ezra Nawi, will give councillors last-minute jitters.

One Dublin city councillor -- who had planned on supporting Mr Norris's candidacy tomorrow night, told the Herald the revelations are "worrying".

"How much more is going to come out about this guy? I believe he should be on the ballot paper but it is worrying," the councillor said.

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

Mr Norris's campaign team has so far said it has no intention of releasing the letters.

However, pressure on the senator to divulge the contents is likely to intensify with sources in opposing parties admitting that they will use the issue to damage his campaign.

Both Mr Norris and presidential rival Dana Rosemary Scallon have lined up a dozen councils to vote on their proposed nominations between today and Wednesday.

A garda escort will be on standby outside Kilkenny County Council on Wednesday if it emerges that Mr Norris or Ms Scallon are in a race against time to deliver the papers to Dublin's Customs House.