Presidential hopeful David Norris has claimed legal advice is standing in the way of him disclosing controversial clemency letters he wrote for an ex-partner convicted of statutory rape.
The Senator said he would examine the possibility of reading the correspondence into the Seanad record but lawyers had warned him against their publication.
Mr Norris made appeals to Israeli authorities on behalf of his former partner Ezra Nawi, who was found guilty of the rape of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy in the late 1990s.
On the first day of campaigning after nominations closed, the renowned academic and Joycean scholar said the legal case was held in camera (in private hearing) and he had been told by Irish and Israeli lawyers that he should not reveal unpublished letters he wrote appealing on behalf of Nawi.
“I have been legally advised that I could prejudice the situation if I revealed information because this was held in camera,” he said.
“This was legal advice, I abide by it.”
Mr Norris described himself as tempered steel who had been through the fire after his high-profile pulling out of the Aras an Uachtarain race before re-entering with an eleventh hour nomination to the ballot paper from Dublin City Council.
The Senator said Ireland needed someone like this, as well as an independent voice in Phoenix Park at a time when coalition controlled the Oireachtas, county councils and even the banks.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny increased the pressure on the Senator to ignore his legal advice and reveal the details of all the clemency letters.
“I think this is a case of where the people are going to have their say about who they want to represent this country in Aras an Uachtarain,” the Taoiseach said.
“From that point of view, I think that all the candidates have to be up-front with the electorate and the people, because they want to know – and they have a right to know – if they are going to make a decision to cast their votes.”
Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said he would bring his skills honed while working with unionists in the North during the peace process to the presidency if elected on October 27.
He said he wanted to further open up the Aras to unionists and victims of conflict, accelerating the work started by President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin, while giving leadership at a time of unprecedented selfishness and greed.
Mr McGuinness said it is a time for people to step forward and show themselves to be in tune with ordinary people’s suffering, and added that he had put his life on the line for the peace process, achieving something that people thought was not possible.
Dana Rosemary Scallon defended her late entry into the race, saying family bereavements had delayed her decision.
The former MEP and Eurovision song contest winner had put herself forward because people told her they wanted a wider choice of candidates, she said.
Dana said she would use her experience representing Ireland on the showbusiness and political stage internationally to restore and rebuild trust in Ireland abroad while representing all the people of the country.
Labour Party president Michael D Higgins insisted he had the stamina and energy for the role.
Flagging up his experience as a former cabinet minister in government, the 70-year-old said he was independently minded and would not be spokesperson for his party but for all the Irish people.
Fine Gael’s candidate Gay Mitchell also sought to distance himself from the establishment, stressing he had come from a working class background and had stood up for some of the poorest people in the country.
“The last thing anyone can accuse me of is being part of the establishment,” he said.
But the MEP said he would use his international and local experience to work with the government of the day at a crucial time for the country.
Independent candidate Mary Davis said she was standing on her track record of more than 30 years’ involvement with the Special Olympics.
Having worked in 58 countries, she said she was well placed to be a strong advocate for Ireland abroad who would work to repair Ireland’s reputation around the world.
'Dragons’ Den' celebrity Sean Gallagher denied he was coming to the race as an amateur.
The entrepreneur said his experience in public life involved work with youth, community and disability organisations and that he would work to attract tourism, inward trade and investment to Ireland.
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