Norris: Can he go on?

Relationship continued after rape conviction

Cormac Murphy and Niall O'Connor

DAVID Norris' presidential campaign has been dealt a further blow today, after it was revealed that his relationship with a statutory rape offender continued for four years after the man was convicted.

It comes as several TDs and senators who had pledged their support for the Independent senator's nomination are reconsidering their decision.

Ezra Yizhak Nawi was convicted in 1997 of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy.

It has now been revealed that Mr Norris' relationship with Nawi lasted until 2001.

It was revealed at the weekend that Mr Norris wrote a letter in 1997 to the Israeli authorities pleading for clemency for his former boyfriend.


The latest crisis has prompted a number of the 67-year-old senator's strongest backers to review their support for him.

Donegal South West Independent TD Thomas Pringle told the Herald today he will be consulting with his election team and "hearing their views before making a decision".

Dublin North Central deputy Finian McGrath said he is still "considering the situation".

Mr McGrath has 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.

John Halligan, a TD for Waterford, said he found the revelations about the clemency letter "deeply troubling".

"I will speak to my supporters over the coming days and come to a conclusion. David Norris is a good man who has done excellent work on issues such as human rights. I am not going to be influenced by politicians or the media. I still believe we need an independent voice as president," he added.

Former Labour Party strategist Fergus Finlay told the Herald he believes David "should take a long and hard look at his future".


"At the end of the day he used a public office to call for clemency and that in itself is not acceptable. David is a friend of mine but he has done enough damage and has to get out of this race," said Mr Finlay, who was edged out of the presidential race by Michael D Higgins.

Mr Norris informed the journalist Joe Jackson in 2002 that his relationship with Nawi had lasted 26 years and had ended in 2001.

Mr Jackson was writing a biography of the senator.

On Friday, a number of key members of the senator's presidential bid, including his director of elections Derek Murphy and his director of communications Jane Cregan, resigned.

Mr Norris could not be contacted today.

He is still due to host the Vincent Browne programme on TV3 tomorrow night.

Mr Norris said at the weekend that he is fully committed to continuing his fight to secure a nomination to contest the presidential election.

Meanwhile, Israel has denied any involvement in the controversy.

The Israeli embassy in Dublin has insisted Israel played no part in highlighting Mr Norris' clemency letter.

Suspicions had arisen as Mr Norris has been a vocal critic of Israel's treatment of Palestinian people.

According to the letters, the senator asked an Israeli court to show "mercy" to Nawi, then aged 45.

In his letter to the High Court in Jerusalem, Mr Norris said he felt secure in the knowledge that Nawi would not offend again and referred to the risk he might attempt suicide in prison.

"I earnestly beg that the court may see the possibility of securing justice not by sending him to prison but by imposing a non-custodial sentence," he said.

Mr Norris added Nawi's "arrest took place in a troubling manner".

"The circumstances are deeply worrying. Mr Yizhak was lured into a prepared trap. The police did not permit the advice of a lawyer," he wrote.


Outlining his own credentials, he said he is "a serious and respected person both within my own community and to some extent at least, internationally".

Mr Norris said he "personally witnessed some troubling anomalies in the majority verdict" which found Nawi guilty.

Among these was the "constant insistence by the presiding judge that there was absolutely no difference between this case and a similar case involving heterosexual relations".

"This is certainly factually incorrect. I would be more than happy to give the court the benefit of my expert knowledge on this and other matters if it were found possible for me to give evidence in the matter," the senator wrote.