Shane McNally talks about the controversy this summer surrounding David Norris’ bid for the Presidency
Ezra Yitzhak Nawi, an Israeli Social activist was defended for the statutory rape of a fifteen year old boy on official state paper, by a sitting senator, who just so happened to have a previous relationship with the defendant. Everything about this sentence should suggest an abuse of power and entirely inappropriate action.
The senator in question is David Norris and of course everyone knows about the scandal that ended the Norris campaign and stopped in its tracks the chance of an admirable politician with an esteemed record from becoming the President of our country.
When David Norris stepped down he did so for the right reasons stating ‘this process has thrown up issues that make it clear that the whole question of the way in which candidates are nominated must be examined urgently by the Government … I have also demonstrated that it is now possible for a gay person to be seen as a viable candidate for the highest office in the land. 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.
At the beginning of my campaign I pledged that I would fight exclusively on what I saw as my strengths and what I could contribute to the welfare of the Irish people. I believe that I have done so with the dignity and decorum that would be rightly expected of any presidential candidate. It has always been a principle of mine not to yield control of my life or my principles to others. The recent frenzy threatened to erode that principle and it is now time for me to reassert as far as possible control of my life and destiny. As I came across the Samuel Beckett bridge today into my mind came his words about humanity and frailty. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.’
I have selected this lengthy quote as I believe that it sums up both the character of David Norris and of course frames his entire campaign; one that was courageous and based upon principles of integrity that are almost non-existent in Irish politics. The very fact that Senator Norris chose to step down from the race shows a politician taking responsibility for his actions. Or so I thought.
The Senator is no stranger to his sexuality being the focus of his political endeavours, as one of the very first things for him to challenge was the criminalisation of homosexual acts, a challenge that he would later win at the European Court of Human Rights. An amazing feat and one that will perhaps in time be viewed as a defining moment for Ireland as a nation. However the very fact that David Norris is a gay Senator is something that the media are always good to remind us of. His sexuality of course defines the man, but it is also something that largely distorted the very amicable work he has done on behalf of Ireland.
One of the many other worrying elements surrounding his campaign is the focus on his sexuality, which was of course unavoidable, but nonetheless has illustrated some very worrying aspects of Irish society. The blatant gay bashing from the usual suspects such as the DRM and various ‘religious’ sites is both ignorant and infantile and sadly paints a picture of views held by a depressingly large amount of people.
With this in mind and looking at the resurgence of Norris’ campaign we must look at the facts surrounding his abdication. David Norris by his own admission was in the wrong and for this reason he stepped down. The Senator, on headed paper, wrote an appeal for a friend; a friend who was to be later convicted for the statutory rape of a fifteen year old boy, a boy who would unfortunately be forgotten about in the media furore that surrounded this story. The letter can be seen here; http://www.rte.ie/news/2011/0730/norrisletter.pdf.
The campaign to get Senator Norris back in the race has been an admirable one, but unfortunately quite naïve. For the senator to re-enter the race, regardless of the fact that he was the best candidate for the job, would completely undermine the very premise of his stepping down. This was compounded last weekend when grumblings of support came from none other than a morally bankrupt Fianna Fáil.
The fact that Senator Norris was able to get so far is something for the Irish people to look to with pride. Perhaps we are finally freeing ourselves from the shackles of oppressive Catholicism and able to embrace a freer and more just Ireland. However making an exception for someone who has committed a wrong and to force this change would be cosmetic and based on false pretences and be worthless in the long run. What we need is patience and a hope that more politicians follow his example of taking responsibility for their actions.
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