herald

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Pressure mounting on Norris to reveal details of all clemency letters

DAVID Norris's campaign team was today frantically considering whether to respond to demands to reveal details of all clemency letters he wrote on behalf of a convicted rapist.

The row over the controversial letters has escalated after Taoiseach Enda Kenny called on all presidential candidates to be "upfront" with voters.

And sources close to the senator have admitted that the pressure on him to act is set to continue.

Mr Norris has claimed that he cannot release the letters -- penned on behalf of his former lover, Ezra Nawi -- as they are protected by "legal privilege".

However, a number of legal experts have cast doubt over his reasons for not publishing the seven additional clemency letters.

And there are now fresh calls from abuse victims today for the Trinity senator to use his Oireachtas privilege by reading out the contents of the letters in the Seanad.

Mr Kenny's dramatic intervention into the row -- where he called on all candidates to be upfront with the electorate -- will further heap pressure on Mr Norris to come clean.

"I think it is a case of where the people are going to have their say about who they want to represent this country in Aras an Uachtarain," Mr Kenny said.

"From that point of view, I think that all candidates have to be upfront with the electorate and the people, because they want to know -- and they have a right to know -- if they are going to make a decision to cast their votes."

And abuse victim and Dublin City councillor Damian O'Farrell today accused Mr Norris of "making excuses" and called for him to "put children first".

"I think David Norris is making excuses here. If there is a way for him to finally come clean on what's in the letters, he must do that," he said.

"Any person who claims he wants to be president has to have a clean record in my view. At the moment, David Norris is ducking and diving. The public deserves to know what's in those letters."

Mr Norris has cited defamation, privacy and legal privilege as the reasons for him refusing to publish the 1997 letters.

He stated that the fact Mr Nawi's trial was held in camera was also an obstacle to divulging the letters.

"I have been legally advised that I could prejudice the situation if I revealed information because this was held in camera. This was legal advice, I abide by it."

However, some legal experts have privately dismissed the claims -- which will further heap pressure on Mr Norris's team.

Well-known barrister Paul Anthony McDermott today poured cold water on the claims.

"If you a write a letter of reference, to a politician for example, you must know that's the type of letter that may end up in the public domain. It's hard to see how legal privilege would be one of the issues for excluding the letters. There is no reason why the bulk of these letters cannot be published, perhaps with redactions."

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