Norris bid rests on council votes as McGrath says ‘no’

DAVID NORRIS suffered a major setback in his bid to become president when one of the last undeclared Oireachtas members ruled out signing his nomination papers.

It means he must now pin his hopes on the local authorities, which meet this week to decide on their nominations.

He will be in heated competition with Dana Rosemary Scallon, who also needs the councils’ backing in order to make it on to the ballot paper.

Supporters of Independent TD Mattie McGrath voted overwhelmingly last night for their deputy not to sign Mr Norris’s nomination papers. After a two-hour meeting in Cahir, Co Tipperary, 75% of the 71 supporters present at a secret ballot shot down Mr Norris’s bid.

The Joycean scholar had managed to get 18 of the 20 Oireachtas names needed after Senator Shane Ross earlier agreed to back him. But with Mr McGrath out of the loop, that route is effectively now closed.

Tipperary Independent TD Michael Lowry, the last likely option for Mr Norris, had previously indicated he would nominate him only if he needed a 20th signature.

Mr McGrath said last night: “They [the supporters] didn’t want me putting him on the ballot paper. I’m relieved it’s over. I had consulted widely. He [Mr Norris] still has the option of the council route.”

Mr Norris and former Eurovision winner Dana will compete for local authorities this week, with 12 councils set to meet before the deadline of midday on Wednesday. Either could be backed by Laois and Carlow today, while Roscommon will solely decide on Ms Scallon and South Dublin on Mr Norris.

Tomorrow will see both vie for support in Waterford City, while Cork County and Dublin City consider Mr Norris and Donegal, Westmeath, Cavan and Longford consider Ms Scallon.

Kilkenny decides on Wednesday.

The backing of four local authorities is needed to secure a nomination.

Mr Norris already has the support of Fingal County Council.

Meanwhile, his supporters brushed aside the emergence of more clemency letters sent by Mr Norris on behalf of his convicted former lover.

A spokesman for Mr Norris, who topped a Red C poll published yesterday with 21% of voters’ support, confirmed the existence of another six clemency letters, sent in 1997 on behalf of Ezra Nawi, who was convicted of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy in Israel.

Letters sent included those to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Israeli president Ezer Weizman.

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