By Peter Taggart
Senator David Norris had been leading in opinion
polls to become Ireland’s new head of state
The man tipped to become the first openly gay president of Ireland dramatically withdrew from the race Tuesday.
David Norris ended his campaign following revelations he had sought leniency for an ex-partner who was convicted of statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy in Israel in the 1990s. Norris had been leading in opinion polls to become Ireland’s new head of state, but his bid has been derailed by the controversy. He announced his decision to withdraw to media gathered outside his home in Dublin.
Pressure had been growing on Norris since it emerged over the weekend he had written a clemency letter to Israeli authorities 14 years ago for his former partner Ezra Nawi, after his conviction for having sex with a 15-year-old Palestinian.
Norris — a member of the upper house in the Irish parliament, the Senate — said Tuesday: “I do not regret supporting and seeking clemency for a friend, but I do regret giving the impression that I did not have sufficient compassion for the victim of Ezra’s crime.
“The fall-out from his disgraceful behavior has now spread to me and is in danger of contaminating others close to me both in my political and personal life. It is essential that I act decisively now to halt this negative process.” Norris added: “The election is now entering a new phase of reality and I hope that it will be conducted in a way that is dignified and respectful of the office of president and of the remaining candidates.”
As recently as two weeks ago, Norris topped the opinion polls to win the presidential election, securing a quarter of the public vote ahead of several other candidates.
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