Belfast Telegraph

Norris had disability payments

Presidential hopeful David Norris has been forced to defend receiving tens of thousands of euro in disability allowance while serving as a senator.

The former university lecturer received funds for 16 years while on leave from Trinity College Dublin after contracting hepatitis from drinking water in central Europe in 1994.

The independent candidate also came under increased pressure to release controversial clemency letters he wrote for an ex-partner convicted of statutory rape based on legal advice.

"This case involved real people," said Mr Norris at the launch of his presidential campaign.

"It changed their lives and left deep scars. I do not want to be the person who rips those scars open again and puts them on public display."

A day after he refused to reveal the identity of his legal advisers on a live television debate, Mr Norris named Israel and Ireland-based lawyers - including distinguished criminal barrister Michael O'Higgins, instructed by Beauchamps Solicitors - which have stopped him disclosing letters he penned in support of Ezra Yizhak.

Mr Norris said Israeli law stated nothing should be published about a closed case without approval of the court and that attempts to do so would breach confidentiality and leave him open to recourse.

He added that a small number of letters to public representatives and the Israeli Embassy were under qualified privilege which, if published, could expose him to expensive litigation.

"In the light of advice received and together with what I've already said, I will not be making any further comments on this matter," he added.

The 67-year-old Joycean scholar, a tutor and lecturer at Trinity since 1968 and a Senator since 1987, stressed he is well enough for the office of president despite his condition. "I am, I feel a great deal better," he said, adding that he followed a rigorous exercise regime and rarely consumed alcohol, except during communion in St Patrick's Cathedral each Sunday.

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