Belfast Telegraph

Irish presidential hopes gone, David Norris rues plea over gay lover

Former Irish presidential hopeful Senator David Norris admitted last night that his decision to beg an Israeli court not to jail the "love of his life" for statutory rape had put an end to his dream of becoming president.

He ended his five-month campaign to become the country's first gay president, saying he had been wrong to seek clemency for his former partner Ezra Yizhak Nawi, who had been convicted of having sex with a 15-year-old boy in 1997.

His departure means the field is now wide open for another candidate to emerge before polling day on October 27.

It also strengthens the chances of Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell and Labour's Michael D Higgins, both of whom had been trailing him in the opinion polls.

Mr Norris broke his silence yesterday to condemn Mr Nawi's "disgraceful behaviour" and apologise to his supporters for forgetting to tell them about his letters seeking clemency.

"In one sense, he was the love of my life. And you don't stop loving someone, whatever their flaws and faults were," he said.

Mr Norris (67) announced the end of his campaign outside his Georgian home in North Great George's Street, Dublin, after admitting that he had given the impression of not showing enough compassion for Mr Nawi's young victim.

"It is very sad that in trying to help a person I loved dearly I made a human error," he said.

Mr Norris did not blame members of his campaign team for quitting in protest at his failure to alert them to the existence of the letter. He also said he was not angry with the three independent TDs who withdrew their support - and therefore doomed his bid to get the 20 Oireachtas signatures he needed to get into the race.

The technical group of independent TDs is now searching for a new candidate.

Independent Dublin North Central TD Finian McGrath said they had "four or five names" in mind.

"Attempts are being made to find a strong credible independent candidate to carry the independent banner," he said.

There was no comment yesterday from Mr Mitchell's camp but Mr Norris attracted praise from Labour candidate Michael D Higgins for the "grace" of his statement and for his long-standing record on human rights issues.

Mr Higgins said he hoped there would now be a concentration on the "core issues" and the "values" needed for the presidency.

Independent candidate Sean Gallagher, who has secured the backing of five councils to enter the race, said it had been a difficult day for Mr Norris.

"On a personal and a human level, I feel for him, his friends and supporters," he said.

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