And then there were seven - Norris makes it onto Áras ticket

David Norris has been formally selected for the race for the Áras as the seventh and final candidate.

And then there were seven - Norris makes it onto Áras ticket

David Norris has been formally selected for the race for the Áras as the seventh and final candidate.

Independent Senator Norris was the last hopeful to get on the ballot paper following an eleventh-hour scramble for votes before Dublin City councillors.

Just hours earlier former Eurovision winner, Dana Rosemary Scallon, became the sixth candidate to be formally nominated to stand for the Presidency.

The pair will now go head-to-head on October 27 against Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell, Labour’s Michael D Higgins, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness and independent candidates Mary Davis and Sean Gallagher.

Mr Norris – whose campaign has been shrouded in controversy over clemency letters he wrote for an ex-partner convicted of statutory rape – said: “If I can make this kind of comeback I hope to God as President I’ll be able to help the country make the kind of comeback that it and its people deserve.”

The deadline for submitting documentation to join the race to be voted Ireland’s ninth President is midday tomorrow.

While Mr Mitchell, Mr Higgins and Mr McGuinness had the firm backing of their parties, the four independents needed to secure the signatures of 20 Oireachtas members or majority support of four county councils each.

Ms Davis, the former head of Special Olympics Europe, and entrepreneur Mr Gallagher – star of 'Dragons’ Den' – secured local authority backing weeks ago.

Offaly County Council joined Donegal, Roscommon and Carlow to officially vote in Dana in the last two days.

She said: “The fact that all of the parties represented on Donegal County Council came together and unanimously gave me the right to go forward on behalf of the people is so much appreciated.”

Despite topping recent polls, and collecting as many as 18 signatures, Mr Norris was left struggling to secure council votes before being finally given the nod by representatives in Fingal, Laois, Waterford city and Dublin City, where he won by 30 votes to six. Eleven abstained.

Mr Higgins had told Labour party councillors at Dublin’s City Hall not to obstruct his rival’s entrance into the field in the name of democracy.

“You’re a generous, decent and good man and I thank you,” said Senator Norris, as he shook hands with Mr Higgins in the grand Rotunda hall. “I hope it’s one of us, and if it’s either of us, we’re going to have a great President.”

Longford County Council had also been due to vote on Dana’s nomination but the ballot was cancelled after she secured four other local authorities.

Some councillors attempted to put Senator Norris’ name up for debate but were blocked by the director of services, Frank Sheridan, who insisted official protocol had not been followed despite the Senator’s name first coming up for debate as far back as April.

No FG blocking: Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny earlier denied Fine Gael was deliberately blocking attempts by Mr Norris to get on the ballot paper.

Speaking at the Custom House, where Mr Mitchell formally handed in his nomination papers, Mr Kenny said his rank and file party members had been instructed to support only Mr Mitchell.

Party councillors had decided either to abstain or to vote against independent candidates in line with the directive, he insisted.

Renowned Joycean scholar Mr Norris believes controversy over his appeals to Israeli authorities on behalf of Ezra Nawi, who was found guilty of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy in the late 1990s, is a diversion.

“To anybody who has been hurt or troubled by anything I may have said inadvertently, let me just say this: I apologise for any hurt from the bottom of my heart and everything I do in this campaign will be positive,” he added.

Meanwhile Mr Mitchell – an MEP and Dublin-based veteran politician – said he was very confident of his prospects in the race.

“I’m delighted we’ve got to the stage where we can stop talking about people going around looking for the nomination and start talking about the issues,” he said.

Mr Kenny also refused to repeat Justice Minister Alan Shatter’s suggestion that Mr McGuinness was not an appropriate candidate for Aras an Uachtarain.

“I have never commented upon people in any kind of election,” he said.

Elsewhere, Mr Gallagher has pledged not to use lamp-post posters during the election campaign after listening to the views of community groups and Tidy Towns Committees.

“There is a real need for leadership in this presidential campaign,” he said. “There are a limited number of candidates in this campaign, and it is a national campaign so there is no need for posters.

“We need to change the old ways of doing things. This is not a party political campaign and multiple posters adorning lamp-posts have no place, in my view.”

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