Norris 'remains committed' to presidential campaign

 

David Norris has said he will continue to seek a presidential nomination despite the resignation of many of his campaign team members amid controversy over a clemency letter sent by the senator in 1997 on behalf of his former partner.

Mr Norris, who was favourite to win the presidential race according to most polls, admitted that his campaign was in trouble after claims emerged about a court case in Israel involving his former partner, Ezra Yizhak Nawi, who was convicted of having sex with an underage Palestinian youth in 1992.

The two men have remained close friends and continue to meet regularly and are in frequent phone contact.

A letter written on Seanad notepaper in which the Trinity Senator seeks clemency for Mr Yizhak was published online and in some newspapers today.

In the letter, Mr Norris describes Mr Yizhak as "an intelligent, honest trustworthy, good and moral person." It goes on to claim that Mr Yizhak was "lured into a carefully prepared trap" and had "unwisely" pleaded guilty to the charges against him

Director of communications Jane Cregan and director of elections Derek Murphy are among those to resign from Mr Norris’s campaign team following the latest revelations.

In an interview in today's Sunday Independent the Senator admitted his campaign was in trouble but said he was "absolutely committed" to running for the presidency.

Mr Norris’ campaign was embroiled in controversy earlier in the summer when comments he made about sexual activity between older and younger men and boys in Magill magazine in January 2002 resurfaced.

The interview with restaurant critic and columnist Helen Lucy Burke was circulated to county councillors in May following Mr Norris’ announcement that he was going to seek a nomination to run for the presidency.

Ms Burke said Mr Norris’ “dangerous” and “shocking” views on sexuality made him an unsuitable person to be president of Ireland.

Mr Norris told the Irish Times at that stage that he had engaged in an academic discussion on sexual relations between older men and younger men and boys arising from Plato’s Symposium and ancient Greek classical literature.

“I made a distinction between paedophilia and pederasty, which is a totally different thing. To the average person it would not make any difference I suppose but to me it did because I knew what I was talking about. That got mixed up and stayed mixed up.

“I abhor with every fibre of my being the idea of interference with children, sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional abuse. My record on that speaks for itself.”

The controversy was revived a few weeks later when an interview Mr Norris gave to the Daily Mail last year covering much of the same ground was reprinted.

While they set back Mr Norris’ prospects of getting a nomination from county councils he appeared to have recovered in recent weeks following an Irish Times poll that showed him leading the presidential race with 25 per cent support.

By this week 15 Oireachtas members had pledged to sign his nomination papers and he only needs another five names to get on the ballot paper.

Senator John Crown has said he will continue to give his backing to Mr Norris as have Independent TDs Maurenn O'Sullivan and Stephen Donnelly. However, some of the senator's other backers have asked for further clarification from him over the controversy.

Independent TD John Halligan said today he would be consulting with his advisors before deciding whether to continue backing Mr Norris.

“I’m meeting my campaign over the next couple of days and I’ll make a decision then,” he said.

“I think David Norris is a very good man, and I’m disappointed but I’m troubled by what has happened,” he added.