Mitchell insists Kenny backing him for Áras

STRUGGLING Fine Gael presidential candidate Gay Mitchell has insisted that Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the party are behind him as he fights for the Áras.

Mr Mitchell has been struggling badly in the polls as his campaign has so far failed to catch fire.

It is accepted in political circles that the party leadership wanted former European Parliament president Pat Cox as FG choice, believing he would have been a better candidate.

But Mr Mitchell, appearing along with the six other presidential candidates on last night’s Late Late Show debate, insisted that the leadership and headquarters were fully behind him.

“Enda has been out canvassing with me several times,” he said, adding they were “very close friends”.

He dismissed the suggestion that the “backroom” staff in headquarters had been against him. “I don’t know where that comes from, but these backroom guys are breaking their backs for me right now and I’m very appreciative of it.”

Independent candidate David Norris insisted the public had “moved on” from the controversy over clemency letters he wrote for a former partner. Mr Norris has released one of the letters seeking leniency for Ezra Nawi, who was convicted of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy in Israel in 1997.

But Mr Norris has refused to release several others, and has seen his campaign become bogged down by the issue.

But, campaigning in Dublin yesterday, Mr Norris insisted: “The Irish people have moved on. I was in Blanchardstown yesterday, I met crowds of people. There was no traction.”

Mr Norris claimed RTÉ had effectively “muzzled” him by not interviewing him ahead of the debate.

The other six candidates were first interviewed by Late Late presenter Ryan Tubridy before the debate itself began.

Mr Norris was not interviewed as he had appeared on the show two weeks ago for an extensive interview.

The candidates’ campaigns continue over the weekend. Labour’s Michael D Higgins will be in Galway today, where he will launch an architectural festival. Independent Mary Davis will participate in the Dingle Taste Trail in Co Kerry. Independent Sean Gallagher will canvass in Dublin, as will Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness.

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