Dublin: ‘Furry Glen’ Presidency Candidate Norris Urged To Withdraw From Aras Race

2 Aug

Fergus Finlay has said he believes Senator David Norris should immediately announce he is no longer seeking a nomination for the presidency.

 David Norris - Expected to hold news conference today

David Norris – Expected to hold news conference today
Fergus Finlay - Believes Mr Norris should withdraw bid for nomination

Fergus Finlay – Believes Mr Norris should withdraw bid for nomination. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Finlay, who failed to secure the Labour Party nomination for the presidency, said: ‘You simply cannot use public office to try to influence a court in the particular situation that pertained in this case, it is simply not acceptable’.

Mr Finlay said that for the sake of the contribution Mr Norris can still make to public life ‘he needs to announce in a dignified fashion that he is withdrawing from the race’.

He added that if this was a letter written by a bishop about a priest or a minister about a constituent, then ‘David would be among those people calling on that bishop or minister to resign’.

Mr Norris is to hold a news conference this afternoon today to clarify his position on his nomination bid for the presidency.

Speaking on the News at One, Mary Banotti, who contested the 1997 Presidential election, said she believed that Senator Norris should abandon his campaign.

She said she believed that he made a ‘fatal mistake’ by not telling his staff about the letters.

It emerged on Saturday, that in 1997 Senator Norris wrote a letter on Seanad notepaper to an Israeli court pleading clemency for his former partner, who had been found guilty of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy.

In the wake of the revelation, Mr Norris said he remained committed to his campaign for the presidency, but admitted that his chances of securing an official nomination were now ‘slim’.

In a statement released today the Israeli embassy that: ‘Allegations made in the media by some Irish public figures that the Embassy was involved in the publication of a letter written by Senator David Norris to a court in Israel have absolutely no foundation’.

The statement added that successive Israeli ambassadors to Ireland have enjoyed a ‘friendly, if combative and mutually critical, relationship’ with Mr Norris over the years, and that there is much admiration in Israel for his work on human rights and reform of laws relating to homsexuality.

Three independent TDs have announced that they are withdrawing their support for Senator Norris.

Waterford Deputy John Halligan says he thinks the Senator should have made more of an effort to explain the letter.

Dublin North-Central TD Finian McGrath – who had been co-ordinating Senator Norris’s campaign – and Donegal South-West Deputy Thomas Pringle have also withdrawn their backing for Mr Norris.

However, Independent Dublin-Central TD Maureen O’Sullivan said she was continuing to support Senator Norris because of his record on human rights and equality issues.

David Norris’s presidential campaign suffered a serious blow last night when three Independent TDs withdrew their pledge to support the Trinity Senator’s nomination.

It emerged last weekend that Mr Norris wrote a letter in 1997 to the Israeli authorities pleading for clemency for his former partner Ezra Yitzhak Nawi who had been convicted of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy.

Mr Norris is expected to hold a press conference in Dublin this afternoon to make a statement on his presidential campaign.

Five of Mr Norris’s 14 Oireachtas backers have reiterated their pledge to nominate but another five have not said how they will respond. Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly said today he would reserve his position until after Mr Norris speaks on the matter.

Dublin TD Finian McGrath said last night he could no longer support the nomination. Expressing deep regret for his decision, he said “children and the presidency have to come first”. Mr McGrath was the co-ordinator of the campaign to get the backing of 20 Oireachtas members for Mr Norris’s nomination.

Mr McGrath said the content of letters sent by Mr Norris had been key to his decision.

“It was a very very tough decision for me to make. But I had to put the interests and the protection of children first and I had to put the integrity of the Irish presidency first,” he said.

Waterford TD John Halligan also announced he was withdrawing his support, as did Donegal South West TD Thomas Pringle.

“I believe Senator Norris is a decent man and I acknowledge the great work he has done for the less well-off in our society, particularly on civil rights issues,” said Mr Halligan. “However, I feel it was a great error of judgment on his part to write the letter to the Israeli authorities appealing for leniency for Ezra Yitzhak Nawi.

“The office of the president must be beyond reproach and so, after consulting with my supporters, I have decided it would be inappropriate of me to support his bid for nomination,” he added.

Other members of the Dáil and Seanad who had pledged support for Mr Norris are also considering their position in the light of the disclosure that the Senator wrote a letter pleading for leniency for his former partner, who had been convicted of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy.

Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly, who had also been supporting Mr Norris’s bid, today said the details which had emerged at the weekend were “very serious” and that he did not approve of how the Senator had made the representations.

He called on Mr Norris to state his position “clearly and publicly in an open and democratic way” and said he would reserve his own position until after the public statement expected later today.

Senator Marie Louise O’Donnell told The Irish Times  yesterday that she had a lengthy conversation with Mr Norris and had “made him aware what I feel about the situation”. Senator Mary Ann O’Brien is also considering her position.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that a number of letters written by Mr Norris on behalf of Mr Nawi have not come into the public domain. Ex-campaign workers said he wrote letters appealing for clemency for Mr Nawi to a range of public figures in Israel and beyond. After they were shown the letters last Thursday a number of Mr Norris’s campaign team resigned.

Separately, the Israeli embassy in Dublin said allegations it had been involved in the publication of the letter written by Mr Norris to the court in Israel had “absolutely no foundation”.

In a statement, the embassy said: “No such letter was or is in the possession of the embassy; as in Ireland, the judicial system in democratic Israel is entirely separate from the Government and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”


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