Norris got TCD disability pay


Presidential candidate Senator David Norris has said he received disability payments from Trinity College Dublin for 16 years, while continuing to serve as a Senator, after contracting hepatitis.

Speaking at the launch of his campaign in Dublin today, Mr Norris said he fell ill with hepatitis and spent a number of weeks in hospital in 1994 after drinking contaminated water during a visit to Europe.

He said he felt drained of energy as a result of the illness and that despite previously being capable of carrying out both jobs, he was medically advised to no longer take on the stress of his lecturing duties.

Mr Norris said the situation continued for about a year and at that point the university told him his situation was “untenable” and advised that he go on permanent disability. A lecturer was hired as his replacement and Mr Norris was compelled not to lecture elsewhere under the agreement, he said.

Asked how much he received in payments, Mr Norris said he was “not very good with arithmetic” but that his pension now was approximately €2,500 per month, which was paid by Trinity College and not the State.

“I think it would be dishonest of me to pretend that I could give you an exact figure…if you wish to find it out you have my permission,” he said. “Might I say this, those were different times. That’s 1994. I think in the present circumstances I would have possibly had some hesitations.”

Mr Norris (67), who had worked at Trinity since 1968, said he had no doubt that he was healthy enough to take on the role of president.

“I feel a great deal better,” he said, adding that he followed a rigorous exercise regime and rarely consumed alcohol following his diagnosis.

In a statement, Trinity College Dublin said data protection legislation prevents it from disclosing personal information in respect of staff members or former staff members.

“The college can confirm that Senator Norris worked as a lecturer in Trinity College from 1968 and he retired at normal retirement age in September 2009,” it said. “In general, income protection insurers, who operate independently of the college, have rigorous medical assessment processes in place for the initial and continuing admittance of claims to their income protection schemes.”

Questioned about his recent silence over letters he wrote seeking clemency for his former partner Ezra Nawi, Mr Norris said he was acting on legal advice from Israeli and Irish lawyers - including barrister Michael O’Higgins and a Haifa based firm- which prevented him from disclosing any more information.

“This case involved real people. It changed their lives and left deep scars. I do not want to be the person who rips these scars open again and puts them on public display.”

Mr Norris said Israeli law said nothing should be published about a closed case with approval of the court and that attempts to do so would breach confidentiality and leave him open to recourse.
He said he also wrote a “small number of letters” to public representatives and the Israeli Embassy concerning the statutory rape case.

Mr Norris said he could say no more about the situation on the basis of legal advice he had received.

Asked if the controversy over the payments and letters had effected his credibility, Mr Norris said it was a matter for the public to decide if it was a problem but that he was pleased with the reaction he had received to date.

Of his overall campaign, Mr Norris said the Irish people deserved “a fair, open and transparent contest for the highest office in the land, one that helps us all work out, with clarity, the kind of society we want”.

“It is my dream that by placing human rights at the heart of my campaign, by inviting people in from the margins of society, I will use the office of president to effect the changes that we all know, in our hearts, are right for this country.”

This morning, Independent  candidate Mary Davis said transparency was important.

"I think it is important for everybody to be transparent and it is up to David Norris really to explain that one," she said.

"It is up to each candidate in relation to their own background and what has and what has not happened in the past - I think if anything comes up in somebody's past yes I think that it should be explained."

Ms Davis highlighted that she had called for an open and clean campaign earlier this week, when she revealed earnings as a result of appointments to State boards. "This is for the highest office of the land it is for a non-political role but it is a political route to get to a non-political role."