Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


David Norris would make a terrible, terrible president

Being president of Ireland is a bit like playing in goal for Barcelona. There isn’t much to do most of the time. But when there is, it’s rather important not to fuck it up. The presidency of Mary McAleese has been exemplary in that respect. She’s been in the job fourteen years. Off the top of my head, I can recall only two things she did in all that time.

In the wake of September 11th 2001, she conveyed Ireland’s heartfelt sympathy to the United States, while also (gently) advocating a restrained, proportionate response to the attacks. Ten years later, during a visit by the British monarch, she delivered one note-perfect speech, and four heroic days of inane chit-chat, on the nation’s behalf. The rest of the time, she could have been running cock fights in the Aras for all we would have known or cared. It’s a shitty job really. The Irish president is required to be intelligent, thoughtful and informed. But 99.9% of the time, her erudition is best exercised saying and doing nothing of any substance.

This is why the reaction online to the apparent implosion of David Norris’ presidential candidacy is so bewildering. The senator is an irreverent, opinionated, irrepressible guy. Those are great qualifications for the job of newspaper columnist, stand-up comedian or national fun-uncle-in-chief. But precisely the worst ones imaginable for a ceremonial head-of-state.

Personally, I don’t believe any grey area does exist on the question of pederasty. But I have no quarrel with that discussion taking place and an alternative opinion being voiced.

Where Senator Norris’ candidacy unravels, in my opinion, is on the question of his judgment. Surely it requires only the most remedial level of political acumen to grasp that, in the wake of the Murphy and Ferns Reports, the public is in no mood to indulge a candidate who isn’t sure there should even be a legal age of consent.

The controversy over Senator Norris’ 2002 interview with Helen Lucy Burke could well have been defused if he had distanced himself decisively from his earlier remarks and moved on. But on Morning Ireland yesterday, two weeks after the furore erupted, the Senator was still flapping about so incoherently on the subject that the interviewer, Aine Lawlor, had to remind him he wasn’t running for president of ancient Greece.

Accusations that Norris is victim of a homophobic witch-hunt are also wildly off the mark. In a hundred political lifetimes he will never be asked a question easier than “Where do you stand on the issue of sex between adults and minors?” Believing otherwise is like believing Sarah Palin was a victim of gotcha journalism when she failed adequately to answer the question “Name a newspaper?”

Even the most level-headed among us can have their lapses. President McAleese caused genuine offense in 2005 when she appeared to compare the treatment of Catholics in Northern Ireland to the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany. She was in office eight years at that point. How long do you suppose it would take President Norris in office to replicate the damage caused by those careless remarks?

On the evidence so far, I’d say about eight seconds.

See also: this.

June 10th, 2011.

15 Responses to “David Norris would make a terrible, terrible president”

  1. David Gormley Says:

    I don’t think Norris is cut out to the president either (for the precise reasons you outline at the start of this post) but you cannot be seriously criticising him as being weak on child abuse or anything even vaguely along those lines? He has been very active in working on the issue of clerical abuse and has condemned it in no uncertain terms. He has done more for victims of abuse than most people. You may not say Norris doesn’t care about sexual consent. This is real gutter stuff, you should know better.

  2. done Says:

    If anything there should’ve been more uproar. A lot of people are still uncomfortable openly discussing anything related to paedophilia, which likely contributes to an atmosphere where victims are scared to come forward but debating whether sould be an age of consent? I know no one cares about the senate but jesus christ.

    Great post and I agree with the “how is this crazy reckless dude a politician” sentiment but his other eccentricities are small fry, defending pederasty should’ve been a career ender in 2002. Thats not a dissenting opinion that needs to be amplified.

    Hate to get all McAleese but kinda wanna equate his interview to the infamous R Kellz “when you say teenage, how old do you mean?” one. Hes an example of why bigger uproar might be needed cos he still has a career and he had a cot damn video tape. I get its not the same thing, im analogizing over here.

    Just read this, which is kinda sorta related:


  3. Ponyo Says:

    Fuck it, I still want him

  4. done Says:

    “Great post and I agree with the “how is this crazy reckless dude a politician” sentiment but his other eccentricities are small fry, defending pederasty should’ve been a career ender in 2002. Thats not a dissenting opinion that needs to be amplified.”

    Um kinda sounds like i disagree with you there but I just meant I wouldve preffered if the tone leant a bit more “burn in hell paedo scum”. Not to be all them dyslexic people who attacked the paediatricians a few years back but you know what im sayin.

  5. Dan FitzGerald Says:

    President McAleese apologised, specifically on behalf of the Irish People for the publication of the cartoons.
    Now to the best of my knowledge, no irish medium carried them. Furthermore she had no right nor mandate to do this.
    She was and is a disgrace.
    Dan FitzGerald

  6. Eoin Says:

    @ David – I didn’t accuse him of being weak on child abuse. Neither did I say he doesn’t care about sexual consent. You just made that up. You’re better than that David.

    @ Done – Haven’t had chance to check that but I will!

    @ Dan – I wasn’t aware of that. If true, that was a disgrace.

  7. gay mitchell Says:

    itd send a great message to countries where homosexuality is illegal though,it’s a pity he’s just the wrong guy.

  8. Eoin Says:

    Last comment wasn’t left by the real Gay Mitchell, but by a frequent commenter who regularly changes alias. Hi Dan!

  9. FriendlyRanger Says:

    I don’t remember Mary McAleese’s response to the question when she was asked about her opinion on adults having sex with children, but then I don’t think she was asked. It seems to me that there is a constant link made by certain media between homosexuality and paedophilia and to suggest that Sen. Norris is at fault for expressing his opinion on that is wrong. He made it quite clear that paedophilia is always wrong and his comments on the age of consent were related to the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ laws that we have. I support him, I think he’d know when to be irreverent and when to be statesmanlike.

  10. Fred Savage Says:

    A decent article but I thought you hated the queen eoin? I guess you’re mellowing in your old age. On the qt I recently had a glass of wine with Jemima Khan. I’m a journalist. she’s really sound.

  11. Paul Says:

    Really, really good read. Only quibble is that the line about Mary McAleese doing ‘nothing of any substance’ 99 per cent of the time – probably a bit unfair. Lots of work done not in public, especially on the Queen etc.

  12. Eoin Says:

    @ Friendly Ranger – I disagree. Norris dug his own grave here. Listen back to the Morning Ireland interview if you don’t believe me. He wasn’t just talking about Romeo and Juliet cases, he also spoke in rather vague terms about relationships between teenage boys and adult men.

    @ Fred Savage – Do I know you? Are you insane? Re: the queen. If I’d been president, I’d have given her a can of Coke and a free t-shirt and sent her on her way like the glorified competition winner that she is. But that’s fine, because I’m not president.

    @ Paul – Thanks, I may have been speaking slightly flippanly on the whole 99.9% thing!

  13. Colm Ó Broin Says:

    Norris has done himself no favours by being less than clear over the age of consent, he has fallen fast, but then again I didn’t get why he was on 40% in the first place. I will say that his efforts in the Seanad to highlight the genocide in East Timor is the only reason I can think of for keeping that institition going.
    One thing that is ridiculous is the suggestions that we should vote for a woman, gay person or disabled person to show how liberal and right-on we are. What total rubbish, we voted for Mary Robinson 20 years ago and we still haven’t come anywhere near electing a woman Taoiseach, a position of real power, unlike Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Philippines who have done it twice. Enough of the tokenism.

  14. james wallace Says:

    Norris is a complete disgrace. In the same manner as those that cry out for him, he is a champion of the ‘classic pederast’. But his protestant roots show that he is a fervent opponent of ‘Catholic pederasty’.
    The fact that he is even been mentioned as a future president shows clearly how far Ireland has fallen. A protestant critices the pope in Ireland and is made out to be a heroic figure. Vote for him if you like, but tell me would you leave him anywhere near your young boys? His mind would only be thinking on the classics, surely? People really do get what they ask for in those they elect, but with Norris you’ll have to be underage before he’ll want to f**k you.

  15. Clicking along the ledge | Tripping Along The Ledge Says:

    […] #5 David Norris would a terrible, terrible president (June 10th) Just because you like someone, and just because that person’s election would generate positive press coverage for your country the world over, does not make them the best person for the job. I was a fraction ahead of the curve on this one, I like to think. #4 ‘A schlub in an expensive suit is still a schlub’ (September 9th) Sometimes freelance means dumb ass for hire. At your service. […]

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