Irish gay senator gets OK for presidential race

27th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Gay Irish senator David Norris succeeded Tuesday in securing the backing of the four local councils he needs to get his name on the ballot paper in the October 27 presidential election.

The long-time champion of gay rights is now expected to be one of a record seven candidates, including former IRA commander Martin McGuinness, who will be chasing the largely ceremonial head-of-state job when nominations close on Wednesday.

Another independent candidate, former MEP and 1970 Eurovision song contest winner Dana Rosemary Scallon, said she was "just thrilled" after she also secured the necessary backing of councils on Tuesday.

Scallon was an unsuccessful candidate in the 1997 presidential election when President Mary McAleese was elected for her first seven-year term.

Under Ireland's constitution, those seeking to succeed McAleese need either the backing of 20 parliamentarians or four councils to get on the ballot paper.

Joycean scholar Norris had abandoned his bid to become the country's first gay president last month after controversy about a statutory rape case involving a former lover.

It emerged that he wrote to the Israeli authorities pleading for clemency for his former partner Ezra Yitzhak, who was accused of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy in 1992.

Yitzhak pleaded guilty to the charge and was convicted in 1997.

Norris re-launched his campaign earlier this month saying people love a comeback and his "would be the biggest comeback in Irish political history".

After he secured his fourth council nomination Norris tweeted, "Many many thanks to the Councillors of Dublin City Council! I have secured the last nomination needed! I am looking forward to the campaign!"

A poll in last weekend's Sunday Business Post found Norris was the front-runner with 21 percent support in what is the most crowded race ever for the presidency.

The newspaper warned, however that he might struggle to get transfer votes under Ireland's proportional representation voting system and it described the race as "completely wide open".

Second in the poll was former Labour party minister Michael D. Higgins with 18 percent, and third was Sinn Fein's McGuinness, who has stepped aside as Northern Ireland's deputy first minister, on 16 percent.

Behind them was MEP Gay Mitchell of Prime Minister Enda Kenny's Fine Gael party and independent and former Special Olympics chairwoman Mary Davis, each with 13 percent.

Independent Sean Gallagher, a businessman, was on 11 percent and Scallon was on six percent.

Over 3.1 million will be eligible to vote on October 27 when there will also be two ballots to amend Ireland's constitution and a by-election in the Dublin West constituency to fill a seat left vacant by the death of former finance minister Brian Lenihan.

© 2011 AFP

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