Wexford County Council has an opportunity to do the State some service and agree to nominate David Norris for the Presidency after he addresses it on Monday.
Last month, Fianna Fáil councillor Malcolm Byrne’s motion, “that Wexford County Council agrees to nominate David Norris to be permitted to contest the office of President of Ireland”, was ruled out of order because, according to county secretary Niall McDonnell, the council could not pass a resolution nominating a candidate before the presidential election order is made in September.
However, the council was left with egg on its face when it transpired that Fingal County Council had, in fact, nominated Mr Norris, without any apparent problem, on the same day that it refused to even entertain the notion.
The Independent Senator needs to receive a nomination from four local authorities to enable him to contest the election and he has written to all 34 eligible councils, including Wexford, seeking to address them on his nomination bid. To that end, Mr Norris will attend the monthly meeting of the local authority on Monday and the members of Wexford county council have an opportunity to wipe some of that egg off their mugs and do the decent thing.
After all, a nomination does not equate to an endorsement and merely means that Mr Norris is at least given the chance to put his name on the ballot paper – an opportunity that he richly deserves. However, getting the nomination in Wexford will not be an easy task and would have been a difficult prospect even if that infamous Magill article had remained dead and buried.
Instead of trusting its councillors to make up their own minds, the Fine Gael party has issued a dictat instructing members that they are prohibited from voting for Mr Norris while Labour and Fianna Fáil councillors can at least vote with their conscience – although the parties’ Oireachtas members do not have the same freedom.
Given that Fine Gael has ten county councillors, who will presumably meekly toe the party line, out of a total complement of 21 in Wexford, Mr Norris will need the support of every other member – Fianna Fáil, Labour and Independent, in order to secure the nomination.
Unless, of course, a few Fine Gael members grow a backbone and go rogue.
Despite the fact that Fianna Fáil’s Mr Byrne previously attempted to convince the council to nominate Mr Norris, this by no means assures the Senator the support of its other party members. In recent weeks another Independent candidate, and former Fianna Fáil member, businessman Sean Gallagher, has announced his intention to also seek a nomination – and he will no doubt be seeking support from various councils.
Meanwhile, if one could predict what Labour members would do on any given occasion, Phil Hogan, and the rest of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, would probably sleep a lot easier at night.
Following the hellish week that Mr Norris has endured, after he had to defend himself against allegations that he endorsed paedophilia and incest, Wexford county council has the perfect opportunity to very publicly put the lie to those damaging accusations and help Mr Norris in his bid to merely contest the election – when, ultimately, the people will have the right to decide if he is the right candidate for the job.
The notorious article, which was dug up for the delectation of Liveline listeners last week by journalist Helen Lucy Burke, was wide-ranging and, ultimately, very positive about the Senator.
“The Senator is not wholly candid [recounting the positive things he has done throughout his life]: I am personally aware of many acts of kindness, and bravery on his part, not least the championing of the rights of those variously disadvantaged,” said the glowing final paragraph – an odd appraisal from someone who now claims that Mr Norris’ views on sex are “evil”.
Despite this apparent contradiction, Ms Burke was perfectly entitled to resurrect her article and Mr Norris should be held accountable for his views. However, anyone who reads the piece in full [you can do so by scrolling to the bottom of this journal.ie piece] should be left with no concerns that a deviant could be about to take up residence in the Áras.
Regrettably, Mr Norris has not handled the whole debacle incredibly well. It is evident that he was not misquoted by Ms Burke and claiming that comments were taken out of context is a really lame defence.
The Senator has said that he was engaged in an academic discussion with Ms Burke and, in an interview with Pat Kenny on Tuesday, expanded on some of the controversial comments that he made in the Magill piece – saying that he abhorred the abuse, and abusers, of children. He has also, quite rightly, appealed to people to judge him on his record and not a ten-year-old interview that failed to create a stir back when it was published.
As a pioneering gay-rights campaigner in the pious Ireland of old, when the Catholic Church ruled with an iron fist, Mr Norris likely developed a thick skin – which he will need to don if he is to survive what promises to be a dirty election campaign.
He would also be naive to think that this is the only damaging article that will be dug up by his political opponents. The loquacious Mr Norris, although articulate, is bound to have put his foot in it on a number of other occasions and some lackey is probably, at this exact moment, trawling through his speeches looking for bloopers.
So, while this controversy has obviously been personally upsetting for Mr Norris, he should be forthright and open in his defence of himself and he also needs to be cognisant of the fact that this hurtful episode could prove to be the tip of the iceberg – and a lot more dirt will be flung in his direction if he does succeed in winning the nomination.
After all that Mr Norris has done for this State, not least his courageous campaign for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, it would be grossly unfair if he was not afforded the opportunity to at least contest the Presidential election – and he needs some help from Wexford county council if he is going to do it.