Norris to get another city council snub as Higgins does well in first poll

David Norris’ bid to enter the presidential election looks like being dealt another blow in Galway as he is almost certain to receive neither speaking time nor the support of the Galway City Council.

The fall out from the botched original decision not to let Sen Norris address the city’s 15 councillors has proved to be embarrassing for Galway and for Mayor Hildegarde Naughton, who has come in for much criticism for the way she handled the situation.

The criticism levelled at the mayor in recent weeks prompted her to seek a re-vote on whether or not to allow Sen Norris address councillors with a view to supporting his nomination as a candidate in the forthcoming Presidential Election.

Meanwhile, Michael D Higgins’ presidential campaign is getting off to a solid start with a new poll indicating that he has 18 per cent support and will be drawing many second preference votes.

Mayor Naughton has secured the backing of eight councillors which is the minimum needed to hold a meeting seeking to overturn the original vote.

The eight councillors are Labour’s Billy Cameron, Tom Costello, Niall McNelis, and Nuala Nolan; Independents Terry O’Flaherty and Catherine Connolly; and Fine Gael’s Frank Fahey, along with Mayor Naughton.

No date has been set for when to hold the meeting but it looks certain to become a Pyrrhic victory for Mayor Naughton as a minimum of 10 votes are needed at that meeting to over-turn the controversial original decision - a figure which looks increasingly unlikey to be reached.

The Galway Advertiser understands that the three Fianna Fáil councillors and Fine Gael’s Pádraig Conneely will not be changing their stance; Independent Donal Lyons is unlikely to; and Independent councillor Declan McDonnell looks set to abstain.

As such Sen Norris is unlikely to get the support he needs to be able to address City Hall unless at least two of the above councillors change their minds.

A further problem arises if the 10 votes are actually secured. It would allow Sen Norris to address the chamber only to find he would then fail to get a nomination from the council to stand as a candidate.

Both Fine Gael and Labour already have candidates in the field and would not be supporting another one. This leaves eight who would vote against Sen Norris out of a total of 15 councillors.

Fianna Fáil councillor Ollie Crowe said with the way the votes are stacking up the entire exercise will now be a “waste of time”.

“It all seems to be an exercise in PR,” he said. “The opportunity to allow Sen Norris to speak come up twice during the original vote and everyone had their chance then and that vote was carried.”

Last weekend The Sunday Business Post reported that senior Fianna Fáil sources were indicating that the party’s TDs and senators may support David Norris’s nomination if the party does not run a candidate. However Cllr Crowe was sceptical about this.

“I’d find that difficult to believe,” he said. “I would think at this stage that Sen Norris will find it difficult to get on the ballot paper.”

Labour TD and the party’s director of elections for the presidential campaign is Joe Costello who said the party is “very pleased with the strong showing” of Michael D.

“Michael D Higgins is drawing support right across the country,” he said. “We are particularly encouraged by his strong showing in terms of second preferences. It is virtually certain that no candidate will be elected on the first count and the ability to attract transfers will be crucial to the outcome.”

Dep Costello also said that given there are only two formally confirmed candidates in the field so far, “it is not surprising that 28 per cent have yet to form an opinion. It is clear this group will have a decisive impact on the result”.

The figures from the Ipsos/MRBI poll were published in Wednesday’s Irish Times and showed David Norris on 25 per cent; Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell on 21 per cent; Michael D Higgins on 18 per cent; Sean Gallagher on 13 per cent; Mary Davis on 12 per cent; and 28 per cent undecided. Fianna Fáil Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív was on 11 per cent despite not being a declared candidate.


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