A Fine Gael councillor in Longford said that party members on the county council will have to oppose the nomination of Senator David Norris to run in the upcoming presidential election.
Senator Norris is seeking the backing of four local authorities to secure a nomination for the presidential election, which will take place in October this year. In order to get the support of a council, a councillor has to put forward a motion proposing his candidature.
If such a motion comes before Longford County Council, Cllr Paddy Belton (FG) informed Senator Norris at this week’s meeting of Longford County Council that the party line would have to be observed.
Having received correspondence that morning from a presidential candidate seeking nomination for their own selection convention, Cllr Belton said, “You know how political parties work, I have to oppose you if it’s put here to the floor and oppose the nomination from the council. That’s the way political parties work.”
The Kenagh councillor wished Senator Norris the very best and believed that he would get the nomination through TDs.
Senator Norris replied, “I would just ask that you might, in the interest of democracy, consider the possibility of abstaining, which has happened in the past. I think that would an honourable position and perhaps that might be considered?”
Cllr Belton, in response, said, “The instructions from headquarters are to oppose you.”
“Specifically to oppose my candidature?” asked Mr Norris.
“Well the members here of Fine Gael party has to oppose your nomination,” said Cllr Belton.
In response to the Fine Gael stance, Cllr Mark Casey (Ind) said, “It’s disappointing to hear that democracy isn’t alive and well on the Fine Gael side of the house. People shouldn’t be denied the right to vote for who they want to vote for.
“Councillors here have the power entrusted on us to select people to go forward for the presidency. Political parties on both sides of the house might be running their own people, they should not deny other people in the country the right of voting for an independent person.
“I’m disappointed to hear that Fine Gael have that attitude towards the presidential campaign and I hope that they reverse it. I, for one, support what you’re doing. I think you will bring an awful lot of flair to the presidency.”
Earlier, Senator Norris gave a 20-minute address to councillors on his candidature, outlining how he would promote Ireland in an effort to attract indigenous industry and foreign direct investment to the country. He also said he would address mental health issues that he said is a significant problem that’s often avoided.
The third issue in his campaign for president is the promotion of culture. On this topic, he praised Longford’s rich history in literature. “I am probably the only person in this room who knew the late Padraic Colum quite well – the man who wrote The Drover, which was recited to me in a café here in town. He also wrote She Moved Through the Fair and was a great friend of James Joyce,” said Senator Norris, who added that he spoke at the Goldsmith Festival.
“I have also performed at Backstage Theatre, and it is a wonderful facility. You gave us Goldsmith and you also gave us the first short story writer – even Chekhov the greatest short story writer ever even paid tribute to Maria Edgeworth and that shows you how creative genius crosses all boundaries.”
The Senator received a round of applause from councillors following his engaging presentation.
County Mayor, Cllr Paul Connell (Ind) praised Senator Norris on his address to the council.
“I must say that you certainly are the man for the job, there’s no doubt about that and I’m sure that there’s no doubt in any of the councillors minds here today. You have the credentials, you have everything that it takes to serve this country when we need somebody like you at the helm.”
Cllr Denis Glennon (FF) welcomed the Senator to Longford and said, “I made many attempts to read Ulysses and I remember hearing you read it one time and it transformed the text and brought words to life on the page.”
Senator Norris noted that James Joyce’s wife’s parents came from Longford, of which the writer was very proud.
Cllr Martin Mulleady (FF) wished Senator Norris well. “I think you’re a colourful figure who will bring something different to politics in a way. I think you’ll make a difference to the presidential election.”
He added that he has not received a directive on who to vote for, but wished him well on behalf of the Fianna Fail councillors.