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Irish presidential hope falls from grace

BY NOREEN FAGAN – David Norris was cruising his way to being elected Ireland’s
first gay president in the country’s upcoming elections in October.

An article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper described Norris as a “witty, boastful, posh, Protestant,
piano-playing, unashamedly intellectual Joycean scholar” and a “vote-seeking
politician whom people did not treat with disdain or indifference.”

Norris, 67, seemed to have wooed his way into the hearts of
Irish voters, but, as in every political scenario, he had his critics, who were
determined to dig up every misjudgment in his long career as an independent
senator campaigning for gay rights.

In May,
Norris had to defend remarks he made to the current affairs magazine Magill in 2002, where he
discussed an ancient Greek tradition of older men taking responsibility for the
intellectual and sexual education of younger men.

"I cannot understand how anybody could find children of either sex
in the slightest bit attractive sexually… but in terms of classic
pedophilia, as practised by the Greeks, for example, where it is an older man
introducing a younger man to adult life, there can be something said for it.
Now, again, this is not something that appeals to me,” said Norris.

"Although, when I was younger, I would have greatly relished the
prospect of an older, attractive, mature man taking me under his wing, lovingly
introducing me to sexual realities, treating me with affection, teaching me
about life."

Norris came out fighting — he described the hype over the interview as
“sabotage.” 

“People
should judge me on my record and actions as a public servant over the last 35
years, and on the causes and campaigns for which I have fought, and not on an
academic conversation with a journalist over dinner. I did not ever and would
not approve of the finished article as it appeared,” said Norris.

Last
week he was sabotaged again, but this time the blow was fatal.

Norris
dropped out of the race on Aug 2 after a scandal erupted over the weekend
involving his former boyfriend’s rape of a 15-year-old boy.

It
turned out that Norris had written to the Israeli authorities in 1997 appealing for
clemency for his former boyfriend, Ezra Yitzhak Nawi. The Israeli peace
activist was later found guilty of the statutory rape of the Palestinian boy
and served time in prison.

Norris’s fate was sealed after members of parliament withdrew their support of his
candidacy. Under the Irish constitution, a candidate cannot run for the presidency
without parliamentary support.

Standing on
the steps of his Dublin home, Norris told supporters that it was time to bow
out.

“I would have loved to have had the opportunity as president of Ireland
to extend that to the service of the entire people, but that is no longer
possible…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."

It is a pity that this happened; Norris was a pretty extraordinary
politician who gave me hope.

I read the Magill article,
and there is one quote that stood out. When asked where did the seriousness of
his life lie, Norris replied, “In the question of human rights in their very
broadest sense, covering all marginalized groups.”

 

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