Defiant Norris: Disability won’t stand in my way

DAVID NORRIS insisted he was healthy enough to stand as president despite drawing down a disability payment for 16 years from Trinity College, Dublin.

The senator said he had contracted a form of hepatitis after drinking contaminated water in 1994 in central Europe.

Launching his bid for the Áras in Dublin, the 67 year old said he wanted to make human rights a central issue in his campaign. He called for a fair, open and transparent contest in the election campaign.

But the embattled scholar also shed light on reports about him receiving tens of thousands in disability payments from a Dublin university while also working as a senator. “When I returned to Ireland I spent some weeks in hospital. It is... quite a serious liver condition.” Mr Norris said a disability allowance was paid by the college, not the state, for the hepatitis condition which he described as “non-A, non-B, non-C”.

A year after he contracted the illness Trinity authorities said it was “untenable” he continue to work and decided to put him on “permanent disability”.

He was replaced and paid the allowance until 2009. He said this was a similar amount to his college pension of €2,500 a month, which he now receives.

When asked if it was appropriate he claimed the pay while still working as a senator over the years, he said other politicians received pay from other sources.

He said he felt “a great deal better” now while admitting that there were lasting effects from hepatitis.

Trinity College yesterday said income protection insurers had rigorous medical assessment processes in place for claims.

Meanwhile, Mr Norris revealed legal advice he said he received which claims it was a risk to publish clemency letters supporting his former boyfriend.

Mr Norris sent letters to Israeli authorities seeking leniency for Ezra Nawi, convicted in the 1990s of raping a boy in Israel. He said senior Irish barrister Michael O’Higgins, Beauchamps solicitors and Israeli attorney Avitan Koronel had advised him against releasing the letters. Mr Norris refused to say when he had received the advice.

He said letters sent at the time to lawyers for his ex-lover had included the senator citing his experience in the Irish courts and advice on Nawi’s case. Israeli solicitors had told him that nothing could be published about a closed trial without approval of that court.

Separate letters of appeal sent to Israeli authorities, including then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will also not be released.

Michael O’Higgins refused to comment while Attorney Koronel in Israel said: “We gave the senator advice. There is nothing I can say more about it.”

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