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David Norris determined to continue campaign despite clemency controversy

The senator acknowledges his chances of securing a nomination to run are “slim”. Meanwhile, some of his Oireachtas supporters are standing by him.

Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Updated at 15:30

SENATOR DAVID NORRIS has said he is committed to campaigning for the presidency, but acknowledged that his campaign is in serious trouble.

Letters published online by RTÉ outline his argument to the Israeli High Court in an appeal for clemency for his former partner, Ezra Nawi Yizhak. Yizhak had been convicted of having sex with an underage teenager in 1992.

A letter to the court, dated in 1997, includes a character reference for Yizhak and calls on the court to consider a non-custodial sentence in light of the “lasting and perhaps permanent damage” which could be “done to his psychological and material welfare by being imprisoned” and because he was his elderly mother’s main source of support. He said he was concerned that Yizhak “may attempt suicide in prison”.

Norris refers to Yizhak as a “close and valued personal friend” since 1975. He also outlines his own political and academic career, including his senior membership of the Foreign Affairs Committee and his association with then-President Mary Robinson.

The senator also voices his concerns over the court case, saying that when he attended the court he “personally witnessed some troubling anomalies in the majority verdict, such as the consistent insistence by the presiding judge that there was absolutely no difference between this case and as similar case involving heterosexual relations.”

He offered to give his own expert knowledge if called on by the court.

Yizhak is from Israel and is a pro-Palestinian activist. He was profiled in this New York Times article two years ago as a campaigner who drew heavy criticism from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Campaign resignations

Several members of the Norris presidential campaign team have apparently resigned in light of the letters.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent on Friday, the senator said that he has to “take it on the chin” and reassure people that he is “the same person I was last week”. He acknowledged that his chances of being nominated to run for the presidency were now “slim”, but said he remains committed to running for election.

Norris had secured the support of 15 Oireachtas members, but requires 20 in order to be nominated. He has consistently performed strongly in opinion polls of the candidates seeking to run for the Áras.

Neither Norris nor his campaign team could be contacted yesterday.

One volunteer who has been working on the campaign told TheJournal.ie that they have been left in the dark over the direction of the campaign.

They said that they had not heard from the senior members of the campaign since early last week and that an Dublin area meeting scheduled for Thursday was suddenly called off.

Support

Meanwhile, RTÉ is reporting that a number of the politicians who pledged their support for Norris have stated that they are continuing that support.

Independent TDs Maureen O’Sullivan and Stephen Donnelly say they still give Norris their backing, although Donnelly said he thought it was wrong for Norris to use official Oireachtas paper in such a highly personal situation.

Senator John Crown said he believes voters should decide if Norris should be president or not and he will continue to back him.

Other members of the Oireachtas have yet to comment on the issue.

Poll: Has the Norris letter controversy affected his Áras bid? >

Read: Leaked Seanad letters show Norris sought clemency for former partner – report >

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