12 TDs, Senators back Norris

Wed, Sep 21, 2011, 01:00

Senator David Norris has now secured the backing of 12 Oireachtas members in his bid for nomination to run for the presidency.

Senator Katherine Zappone today said her decision to nominate Mr Norris still stood, despite her intention to vote for the Labour candidate Michael D Higgins.

Ms Zappone said he had assured her in writing that no other issues would emerge from his past that could derail his campaign. People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett signed Mr Norris's nomination papers yesterday.

Fianna Fáil’s refusal to back anyone in the presidential election had made Mr Norris’s nomination unlikely and Dana Rosemary Scallon’s almost impossible.

Mr Norris faces a difficult task in getting the required support of 20 Oireachtas members, while Dana appears to have little hope of achieving the target.

Eight TDs are committed to supporting Mr Norris’s nomination. They are: Joe Higgins, Clare Daly, Richard Boyd Barrett and Joan Collins from the United Left Alliance, along with Catherine Murphy, Stephen Donnelly, Mick Wallace and Maureen O’Sullivan.

He can also rely on four nominations from the Seanad with NUI Senators John Crown and Seán Barrett from Trinity College, and Senator Katherine Zappone adding to his own vote.

Dana had the open support of just one Oireachtas member, Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath, and her chances of further support appear slim.

The Fianna Fáil parliamentary party agreed yesterday that its 33 TDs and Senators should not nominate candidates for the election.

A motion from party leader Micheál Martin seeking support for a decision to stay out of the campaign was backed by his deputy leader, Éamon Ó Cuív, despite earlier differences of opinion on the issue.

Party whip Seán Ó Fearghaíl said after the meeting that the motion had been adopted by “popular consensus”. Under the terms of the motion, the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party endorsed the decision of August 31st not to contest the election or to nominate or endorse a candidate. Mr Ó Fearghaíl described the decision as a “firm and final conclusion” and said it was one with which he believed the public would agree.

Earlier, Fianna Fáil Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú said he was withdrawing his name as a prospective candidate for the presidency after meeting Mr Martin.

He said that following meetings with the party leader and speculation in the media about Mr Martin’s leadership, he did “not wish to prolong uncertainty within Fianna Fáil”.

Meanwhile, the five nominated candidates for the election attended the 80th National Ploughing Championships in Athy, Co Kildare.

Sinn Féin candidate Martin McGuinness said that earlier comments he made on radio about “West Brit” elements in the media were “off-the-cuff” remarks. He said the only people talking about his IRA past were the media.

Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell said Mr McGuinness was beginning to sound like he had been on “peacekeeping duty with the United Nations” but said he was looking forward to debating with him in a live presidential television forum.

Separately, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan today said he did not "think we’re at the stage where a person of Mr McGuinness’s past is going to be president of Ireland".

"I don’t think we’ve reached that stage of political maturity yet.”

Speaking on Newstalk's Breakfast programme, Mr Hogan was asked whether it was "suitable" that a former chief of staff of the IRA should be, as president, head of An Garda Siochána and the Defence Forces.

He replied: "No."

When asked if Mr McGuinness was "unsuitable to be president", Mr Hogan said: "Correct."

Labour Party candidate Michael D Higgins expressed satisfaction with how the campaign was going. “My own strategy is working . . . I have talked to every group that have asked me, as much as I could fit in, and I am getting a very good response.”

The two Independent candidates, Mary Davis and Seán Gallagher, were also at the event.