Norris tries to salvage Áras dream

PRESIDENTIAL hopeful David Norris made a last-ditch plea to Oireachtas colleagues in an effort to save his campaign, as more than half of those who had pledged their support considered withdrawing it.

It comes as the Labour Party denied claims by a blogger that they put him up to revealing the conviction of Mr Norris’s former partner for statutory rape.

Meanwhile, just five of the 14 TDs and senators who had pledged to sign the nomination papers for his candidacy were publicly supporting him yesterday.

Others said they feared further controversies might emerge that could damage Mr Norris’s campaign and wanted assurances that this would not be the case.

It is understood Mr Norris considered pulling out of the race at the weekend after the resignation of senior members of his campaign team. They stepped down after discovering details of a letter he sent to Israeli authorities appealing for leniency for his former partner, Ezra Yizhak Nawi, who was convicted of statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy.

Mr Norris used Oireachtas-headed notepaper in the letter sent to an Israeli court in 1997 asking judges not to send Nawi to jail.

The independent senator yesterday claimed the controversy had “all the appearance of a stitch-up” suggesting there may have been “Israeli involvement” in releasing the information.

Meanwhile, the pro-Israeli blogger who revealed details of Nawi’s conviction last Monday suggested he was put up to it by the Labour Party. John Connolly, a 22-year-old law graduate living in London, said he received a tip-off from an old college friend who previously canvassed for Labour.

“I feel betrayed I may have been used so Michael D could eat up votes from Norris,” he said, adding he had no connections with anyone in Israeli embassies in Dublin or London.

Labour denied involvement, saying its candidate, Michael D Higgins and his team, had “no act, hand or part” in the controversy.

In the letter to an Israeli court, Mr Norris described himself as a person “of some consequence” and had “been widely mentioned as a possible presidential candidate”. He also referenced then president Mary Robinson, saying she had acted as his lawyer in a case to the Court of Human Rights.

Mr Norris said he asked to be a witness in the statutory rape trial of his former partner but “was not called to give this evidence”.

Independent TDs Maureen O’Sullivan and Stephen Donnelly last night said they would still support Mr Norris’s candidacy, while Finian McGrath, John Halligan and Thomas Pringle are re-considering their positions.

Mick Wallace and Senators John Crown and Sean Barrett are understood to be supporting him.

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