Tragedy and comedy have a habit of linking arms and marching onstage when we’re least expecting them. Certainly the gruesome twosome have put in an appearance at the collapse of David Norris’s bid to become President of Ireland. Norris was the front-runner even before he announced his candidacy so a lot of people must have told pollsters they were going to vote for him. The question is, whyohwhyohwhy? It can’t have been because they thought he’d make a good president. The post calls for dignity, empathy, a willingness to listen, a past record that suggests a person of substance. David Norris may have all these qualities but they're less than easy to detect. What I’ve seen on my TV is a loud-mouthed man with a posh accent, forever appearing on chat shows, fond of parading around Dublin with his admiring mates every June dressed in early-twentieth-century clothes to prove he’s read a book that 90% of the Irish population haven’t read and don’t want to read. None of that signals a person the Irish people would truly like to have up in Áras an Uachtaráin.
My guess is that because Norris is gay, a lot of people were fearful they’d been seen as homophobic if they told pollsters “I wouldn’t have him if he came with a year’s free groceries”. So when asked would they cast their vote for him they answered “Yes I said yes I will Yes”.
But Norris, unhappy man, dealt them a card that trumps the homophobic card and that’s the child-abuse card. He made the initial mistake in 2002 of talking about relationships between men and boys, and the further mistake of writing what was essentially a character reference for his Israeli friend who’d been charged with a serious sexual crime against a minor. His 2002 article said nothing that clashed with either history or fact, as far as I know, and his character reference for a friend/former partner seemed more an act of courage than anything else. The charge that some pundits make is that he sent the letter in his role as a public representative. Eh? He was in the Seanad for a number of years as the representative of the University of Dublin (Trinity, you thick). That means he was elected by a small body of graduates. So that makes him a public representative? The whole notion that graduates of Trinity or of the National University of Ireland can elect people like Norris, while ordinary Joe Soaps can’t, is so undemocratic it’s as laughable as a man eating pig’s trotters in public every 16 June. No, Norris first commented on sexual relations between men and boys and then stood near a man charged with child abuse. Result? The air was filled with the smoke and scream of liberal tyres as political hand-brake turns were performed.
So yes, I’m delighted Norris won’t be the embodiment of the Irish nation but I’m sorry to see his bid for election flattened for half-baked reasons. To slightly amend what they said when the movie-star Gloria Swanson died: sic transit gloria David.
The question now is, if word comes through that Dana has decided to run, will Gay Mitchell use unChristian-Democratic language?