Bruton: No FG edict to block Norris

A senior Fine Gael minister has insisted that there has been no direction given to councillors to block David Norris' bid to get on the ballot paper for the presidential election.

A senior Fine Gael minister has insisted that there has been no direction given to councillors to block David Norris' bid to get on the ballot paper for the presidential election.

Senator Norris and Dana Rosemary Scallon are facing into a crucial day of meetings in their attempts to secure a nomination to run for the Aras.

Both have the support of two local authorities so far, but they need two more each to be officially nominated by tomorrow's midday deadline.

Cork County Council, Waterford City and Dublin City all have motions to support Senator Norris today.

For Dana, her hopes lie with Donegal, Offaly, Westmeath Longford and Cavan.

Yesterday, in a surprise move - Fine Gael councillors on South Dublin County Council did not abstain from a vote - essentially blocking a nomination for Senator Norris.

But Jobs and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said this was not a directive from party headquarters.

"I think the Taoiseach has made it clear that Fine Gael councillors have been given a free vote and it is up to them to exercise that," Minister Bruton said.

"There will be no directions from party headquarters to the councillors - they have to make up their own minds."

Dana is expected to get the formal backing of Donegal County Council when it meets this morning.

Fianna Fáil, and some Independents, will support Ms Scallon, which should be enough to get her past the post.

But speaking to Ocean FM, Fianna Fáil Councillor Brendan Byrne, said it is not clear which way the other groups will go.

"It very much depends on what the other parties do," Cllr Byrne said. "There is a single motion before Donegal County Council that (the council) nominate Dana as a candidate.

"That will be supported by all 11 Fianna Fáil members - I am led to believe some Independents will be supporting Dana's candidacy also."

Meanwhile Cork County Council, where Fine Gael holds the majority, is also meeting today to consider Senator Norris' request.

Mayor Tim Lombard of Fine Gael said the party hasn't issued any orders as regards which way the block should vote, and it isn't clear how the council's other groups will go either.

"It's a huge council with over 40 members and it's nearly impossible to call what's going to happen," he said.

"Nobody seems to know exactly what they are going to do."

In Waterford, councillors will also discuss Senator Norris' application.

Labour Councillor Pat Hayes, mayor of Waterford city, said his loyalty lies with party candidate Michael D Higgins, but he doesn't want to stand in someone's way.

"I would find it very difficult to oppose a legitimate candidate going forward," said Cllr Hayes.

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