David Norris: Senator yes, President, well maybe not…

Lot’s of comment on Senator Norris’s much quoted ten year old interview for Magill this week… From the sort of sympathetic to the outraged to the pragmatic, he’s going nowhere fast

Now there is nothing particularly controversial in what Senator Norris said. He did not back paedophilia, and in fact he was candid about an aspect of his younger life the effects of which at the time were mostly positive in a country that has been travelling from gay negative to a gay positive attitudes.

But the truth is that whilst Senator Norris’s unclubbable and irrepressible dissenting voice is an undoubted boon to the Seanad and Irish public life generally, the largely ceremonial office of the Irish Presidency may be better suited to someone who is somewhat less inclined to be so candid and open about his personal life, and other matters.

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  • ” But the truth is that whilst Senator Norris’s unclubbable and irrepressible dissenting voice is an boon to the Seanad and Irish public life generally, the largely ceremonial office of the Irish Presidency may be better suited to someone who is somewhat less inclined to be so candid and open. ”

    The above is a joke? I consider candid and open an absolute essential for anyone in public life and its a pity I have seen so little of it.

    If Mr Norris is good enough let him run and be elected or not on ability, qualification and merit.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Was at a Church of Ireland youth event once, and there was a debate on homosexuality, with Senator Norris presenting the case for the proposal, he quickly lost what support there was for the proposition by continually swearing during his submission, he is maybe a wee bit to prone to foot in mouth for such a role, but the gaff potential makes it such a tempting proposition I am almost tempted to seek the vote for us Northerners too!

  • trishad

    I agree with Pippakin that candid and open are exactly the kind of qualities we want in a president. Reaching out across divides has been a feature of the last two presidencies and would continue if David Norris was elected.

    A warped view of sexuality has led us into all kinds of problems in the past and is still having repercussions in the present (see Murphy report, Primetime Investigates on sexual abuse by Irish missionaries in Africa and so on).

    Electing an openly gay President would send out a signal that our attitude to all forms of sexuality is changing for the better. As for the occasional foot in mouth gaffe, at least it shows he’s human and makes mistakes like the rest of us.

    By the way I don’t necessarily subscribe to the views David Norris expressed in the Magill article if indeed he did express them in that way and that seems at least somewhat open to doubt. Miss Burke should produce the tape if she stands by her account and let us make our minds up for ourselves. The fact that she hasn’t done so is somewhat surprising and has not been satisfactorily explained.

  • Rory Carr

    “Electing an openly gay President would send out a signal that our attitude to all forms of sexuality is changing for the better.”

    I could be flippant here, Trishad, and suggest that adherents of the Westboro Baptist Church might not agree but there is a darker side to all this and it is that Senator Norris, in making reference to Greek practices, has placed himself (whether inadvertently or not) in the position of being soft on man/boy sexual relationships.

    There is an acknowledgment among those who labour in the fields of childrens’ legal and health and social issues that there is much yet to be fully understood about the sexual appetites of young males and their ability to give informed consent but the recent failure of the state(s) in Ireland (North and South) to protect male (as well as female) children in the care of the state from sexual predators would certainly militate against the ascendancy to the highest office of state of one who has so recently been vociferous in promoting a relaxation of protection of young males from their older “admirers”.

    While I can appreciate that these admirers of “noble youth” may not like it and may protest that their own motives are also noble and not at all base I am incied to think that they would be best to lump it for theforseeable future.

  • I have seen no real evidence of the allegations and as far as I know Mr Norris has disputed some of the claims made about him. To me it sounds a lot like scare scaremongering. As long as its between consenting adults, no one ends up in A & E and the general public are not being told he is a happily married father of umpteen children his sexuality is his business

  • Framer

    Ireland’s first gay president is a bridge that needs to be crossed just as the first northerner, Mary McAleese, had many people arguing you could take the girl out of Ardoyne…

    By and large, they were proved wrong, as would be the case with David Norris. His failure in the interview was not talking about the age of consent as a legislator which he was.

    Lines have to be drawn in law. If the age of consent is as it is now in Northern Ireland, 16, it is true many girls get pregnant at 15 but the male culprits are still liable to prosecution. Some are, but most are not. The matter however has to be left to the discretion of the police and the PPS.

    The gay president, Ireland did not have.have was Roger Casement. Had he been reprieved, like Eamon de Valera, he would have been first in line, even before his friend, Douglas Hyde.

    Casement’s politics were somewhere between de Valera’s and Sean McBride’s. Ardent separatist and gunrunner, Anglican turned Roman Catholic, and bitter anti-partitionist, he also had a practical humanist side. Arming the rebels in 1916, he did not want a blood sacrifice and thus tried to get the Rising called off.

    His diaries reveal him, unlike Norris, not to be discursive or academic but an inveterate crosser of the line and disregarder of an age of consent, which by and large did not exist in law for homosexuals. He was also given to cruising which is still a grey area although increasingly replaced by cyber sex.

    But like most heterosexual men (although not all) he would have kept his trousers on in power, or in the Park, That is what you ask of Presidents. Not that their pasts were impeccable.

  • Harry Flashman

    “A warped view of sexuality has led us into all kinds of problems in the past..”

    Yes, but who defines what “warped” means?

    Half a century ago it was of course accepted by 90% of the population that men who liked to have sex with other men were “warped”. It wasn’t blinkered bigots or foam flecked Bible bashers who held this view but perfectly normal, ordinary, decent people, people like your grandparents and your parents in fact. Indeed truth be told a lot of them still do think so but hold their tongue for fear of the shed loads of ordure that would be heaped on them if they expressed their true feelings.

    Psychiatry defined homosexuality as a mental aberration and then with a breathtaking 180 degree sweep it suddenly decided that it was in fact perfectly normal and those ordinary people holding what they considered to be normal views were suddenly defined as the sick mentalists.

    Norris believes that it wouldn’t do a bit of harm to go back to the ancient Greek way of doing things with a nice older man helping out the young lads with their sexual, er, issues. Well maybe that will become normal and all those editors of newspapers who today bash on about “kiddy fiddlers” and “paedos”will suddenly become exposed for the warped individuals they are as we all get relaxed about the idea of young teenagers being groomed for sex by much older men and we’ll wonder why we were so “warped” about the issue before.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  • Harry Flashman

    There is no reason to suppose that homosexual is any more disposed to paedophilia than heterosexual. I think the age of consent for men is twenty one? If that is the case then there is a debate to be had about that, most teenagers experiment and explore so to say to someone he cannot explore his own sexuality until he is twenty one is an imposed celibacy that few young people would accept. I have not seen a case of an older man being charged with a sexual offence against a boy of, say, seventeen in years, possibly ever.

    As I understand it Mr Norris has denied some of the allegations and proof of the ‘incriminating’ interview has yet to materialise. If there is evidence then it should be produced otherwise its just unfounded allegations and I have to wonder why such allegations would be made at this time.

  • Framer

    The Sunday Independent today has a raft of article on the Norris controversy. One traces the genesis of the story to a website run by a Mayo family, also called Burke, who picketed the Dail during the passage of the Civil Partnership Bill.

    BTW the age of consent in Northern Ireland became 16 (as in England) in the dying days of the direct rule administration almost five years ago.

    The Greek love issue about which I have always harboured doubts as to veracity was not about ‘grooming’ but a tradition supposedly within the society amongst the upper classes.

  • Rory Carr

    The Greek tradition, I can confirm, was alive and well, at least among Turkish Cypriots up until the 1970’s and for all I know may well be still in vogue to this day. This was made known to me by a young Turkish-Cypriot art student with whom, among others, I shared a house in South Wales in the 1970’s. He said that upon reaching puberty the practice in his society was that he was given into the care of an uncle who sort of, er, took him in hand so to speak and instructed him in sexual practice. Later, the uncle took him to a brothel where he was instructed in the practice of heterosexual intercourse by one of the women therein.

    I was too shy (and too naive) to ask precisely what went on between him and his uncle and I think that at the time I assumed that it was restricted to non-penetrative sex but I don’t actually know.

    In any case it didn’t seem to have done the little bugger much harm as, when he complained of not having met any girls and I introduced to my then current squeeze thinking she might hook him up with one of her mates the ungrateful little shit went off with her.

  • Framer Harry Flashman

    I have checked, sorry I should have done so earlier, the age of consent between homosexual males is now the same as for heterosexuals,

  • wee buns

    ”when he complained of not having met any girls and I introduced to my then current squeeze”

    Hard lines, Rory.

    This episode is a reminder of the scandal that divided the artistic community in 2008 over the pederast activity of gay Donegal poet Cathal O’Searcaigh with teenagers in Nepal.

    Senator David Norris called for a boycott of the documentary ‘Fairytale of Katmandu’ which had caused the controversy.

    Many of O’Searcaigh’s critics were concerned with what appeared to be his engaging in a form of sex tourism, (not with homosexuality as such), but many of O’Searcaigh’s supporters (including Norris) took the view that he was being persecuted for being gay. O’Searcaigh was likened to Oscar Wilde, which was plainly ridiculous.

  • Rory Carr

    There were a lot of things ridiculous about O’Searcaigh not alone any comparisons with Oscar Wilde but chief among them was the idea that he was being persecuted for being gay when in fact he was being asked questions about his relationship with vulnerable adolescents who were made economically dependent upon him. Had they been adolescent females there would, I believe, have been few if any rushing to his defence. His ‘gayness’ in fact rebounded to his benefit.

    Because boys have a more aggressive burgeoning sexuality than girls and because they are not vulnerable to pregnancy does not make them any less in need of protection from selfish, rapacious adult predators. The physical, emotional and spiritual damage that can be done to them can be very great indeed.

    I was going to add that he was a shit poet into the bargain but then that might make me seem somewhat prejudiced. What do you think?

  • Harry Flashman

    “There is no reason to suppose that homosexual is any more disposed to paedophilia than heterosexual.”

    I never said there was, what’s your point?

  • My point? Why should I think young males are more at risk of lascivious gay older men than young girls are from lascivious straight older men?

    I suspect the Grecian aspect is a red herring and this whole story is an attempt to discredit Mr Norris. I have still not seen or heard of any evidence to back up the claims that Mr Norris has disputed.

  • wee buns

    ‘’I was going to add that he was a shit poet into the bargain but then that might make me seem somewhat prejudiced. What do you think?’’

    I think you might seem like a flaming homophobe, despite his work being a cliché ridden snore fest (Greek form, the beauty, the vigor of youth) not improvable even by the devastating beauty of the native tongue.

    Speaking as the mammy of (quite a few) sons, indeed boys are not only vulnerable to sexual predators, but grossly less mature emotionally than their female counterparts so arguably more disadvantaged thus. In any case O’ Searcaigh turned the argument on the filmmaker who he accuses of failing to understand ‘sexual nuances’. No I’m afraid a large portion of the public did not accept this as an explanation for his ‘patronage’. Large numbers of the gay community were extremely critical too.

    With Norris, be it a smear or not, it’s not relevant, He has argued that his views supporting pederasty were made academically bla bla etc. However through his support for O Searcaigh and more importantly by confusing the issues of pederasty/sex tourism/ with gay rights, Norris has shown himself suffer from a similar arrogance as the poor demonized poet.

    He is incapable of making certain very important distinctions.

  • Harry Flashman

    ” My point? Why should I think young males are more at risk of lascivious gay older men than young girls are from lascivious straight older men? ”

    Congratulations, that was my point also hence I said:

    “we all get relaxed about the idea of young teenagers being groomed for sex by much older men”

    Note I said “teenagers” not young males, so if we are to get relaxed about Norris’ ideas of sexual ‘guidance’ we shouldn’t get too hot and bothered about all the old geezers grooming young schoolgirls on the internet should we?

    Sauce for the goose and all that.

    (As a matter of fact however there is a wealth of evidence that there is a disproportionate number of homosexual child abusers compared to heterosexual ones but we tend to sweep such evidence under the carpet so as not to appear homosphobic in this modern, tolerant age.

    We like to pretend that abusers target children regardless of gender whereas in fact sexual orientation of the adult is almost always linked to the gender of the child abused.

    I’ll go away and put my flame retardent suit on at this point I suppose.)

  • Harry Flashman

    Teenagers being groomed? most teenagers are well aware of when someone is trying it on, however slowly. ‘Grooming’ usually applies to children not to those over the age of consent and is btw something I have very strong views about.

    Mr Norris has disputed some of the comments attributed to him and said others were taken out of context. I would need evidence before I jumped to conclusions. Its true that some teenagers are more vulnerable than others but I can say as someone who has seen the brood fly the nest that sexual grooming was something they would spot and get quite aggressive about…. Some young people are in need of advice and guidance and some young people are gay. A paedophile is just that he or, as has recently been seen, she take refuge in adult sexuality but imo its wrong to define them as either gay straight.

    No need for the flame retardant suit, the dragon is leashed.

  • Speranza-II

    Norris should not be elected as president on the ‘Homosexual Ticket’.He should be elected on the merit of the Labour Partys Policys In Government.(Which imho would sugjest he’d never in a million years be elected).O’Searcaigh was,is a Disgrace.Oscars mum was correct about one thing-‘The only things in life worth living for are Sin.(Adult Sin That Is…..

  • Framer

    Flashman has cooled his dragon’s fire and that is welcome.

    I would agree there is often a failure to face up to facts in these discussions but honest discussion was Norris’s problem in the original interview.

    He dealt with several aspects of the subject and suggested matters were more complex than the law allows which is and has to be a blunt instrument.

    One interesting near unsayable is that Oscar Wilde’s behaviour in relation to younger men frequently lacked any compassion, where Lord Alfred Douglas’s toward boys was ruthlessly predatory and often unchecked by Wilde (see the Neil McKenna book.)

    If priests were in any way typical, and they are not, there is a higher proportion of male on male sex abuse certainly of young teenagers: “81% of their victims [in the US] were male while a majority were post-pubescent adolescents. Only about a quarter of priests were accused of abusing children who had not reached puberty.” (John Jay University report)

  • Framer

    Flashman has cooled his dragon’s fire and that is welcome. Really?

    I have read Oscar Wilde, seen his plays and read more than one biography. I admire his works but have no sympathy with the man. His arrogance was his downfall. In fact he is the only person who I think would ever describe heterosexual sex as bread on bread and think it was clever! I would have thought the opposite was the case… He also made a catastrophic error of judgement. It was he who sued Queensbury (a thoroughly objectionable bully of a man) not the other way around, Lord Douglas was Queensburys son. The moral outrage of the day was entirely predictable. Alfred Douglas got off light which was also entirely predictable.

    In this instance I’m saying judge Mr Norris on the facts. If the evidence is there, and I thought there was a problem producing it, then produce it and move on, otherwise Mr Norris has the right to run based on his political career etc and should not be condemned by unproven allegations.

  • Rory Carr

    When learning of the salient matter of Oscar Wilde’s career and reputation – i.e. that Pippakin has “no sympathy with the man” – I could not help but entertain the conjecture that Wilde, in death, would remain almost as supremely indifferent to such lack of esteem as he would have in life.

    But just as Wilde found himself undone by allegations unproven or otherwise so I think will be the case with Norris. He will find, like Wilde, that in these matters “should” or “should not” is of little consequence. Past peformance, present demeanour and long-held sneaking suspicion will win out in the end. That which served to make Norris outrageously endearing in the past may in future come back to bite him on the bum.

  • Rory Carr

    I might have known…. Of course Wilde would have been ‘supremely indifferent’. Who knows he may even have made a witty remark, and that was his problem: he was ‘supremely indifferent’ all the way to Reading.

  • Actually I do admire Wildes work and his life was fascinating but he did not get hit from on high or even out of the blue. He, who was so observant of life and the frailty of human character made a decision that each time I read it astonishes me anew. Marquis of Queensbury rules did not apply…

    I defend Norris so long as gossip is gossip. All of us know, or should know, what its like to be the subject of such, even in our own small worlds. Its unpleasant especially as most of us can do nothing but wait for the next victim to appear.

  • Speranza-II

    Whilst Wilde was wild with wit,what women want in Todays World Is A Break With The Past-Interesting to know That The Catholic Bishops of 12 Century Ireland were Polygamists-Family men who did exactly as Wilde did and Swung wit The Times.O’Searcaigh on the otherhand was simply a Disgusting Exploiter of Vulnerable Childern.Very much in the same way a certain Labourite in the 90s was An Exploiter.

  • Los Leandros

    David Norris very clearly supported paedophile activity in the interview. The homosexual/paedophile link is open to question. For example the John Jay Criminal College of investigation into the Catholic Church, revealed that 80%+ of the abuse related to post pubescent/adult males ; so the abuse in the Catholic Church was predominatly predatory homosexual in nature & not paedophile. Specifically in relation to Norris, he previously slanderously compared Pope Benedict to Hitler ; a close relation of the Pope’s was murdered as part of the Nazi’s eugenics policy & his father was constantly bullied/harrassed by them. So in terms of tolerance/diversity/pluralism/diplomacy, Norris is clearly not a very suitable Presidential candidate.

  • wee buns

    That Norris ‘clearly supported paedophile activity’ is a conservative catholic view on what would seem to be a general lack of boundaries with regards to issues of sexuality and exploitation.

    As Framer says there are matters ‘more complex than the law allows’ but that mainly relates to the age of consent. In terms of the Greek model of pederasty (about which Norris and O’Searcaigh wax lyrically), it is indeed so extremely widely practiced in many eastern countries as to be standard. As I understand it, this is due to strict conditions imposed around contact with females in those cultures.

    If those boys are willing accomplices (as O’Searcigh claims) or victims of a repressive circumstances, I really do not know, as the voices of those boys are rarely heard. The boys in the documentary seemed to be the latter, which is what caused the uproar.

    What is certain is that practice of pederasty is not culturally transferable to Irish society. And neither can it be truthfully claimed to be a feature of a gay lifestyle (which heterosexuals just ‘don’t get’: that’s the position of both O’Searcaigh & Norris). A penchant for young males cannot be mixed up with issues of justice.

    Norris defends Ó Searcaigh in Seanad Éireann: “An attempt has been made to create such a firestorm of hostile publicity that justice may never retrospectively be done.”

    This is Norris playing the homophobia card.

    On last night’s Vincent Browne the panel included Jesuit priest Michael McGreil, author of ‘Diversity & Pluralism in Ireland’.

    According to his research, over the past 20yrs attitudes towards homosexuality have improved by a massive percentage, (as they have towards every disadvantaged & minority group except travelers).

    Perhaps an explaination as to why the homophobia card is a busted flush.

  • Los Leandros

    That’s just vacuous liberal waffle. The use of such a puerile campaigning/meaningless mantra as ” homophobia ” has no place in a rational debate on such an important issue. A phobia is an irrational fear of something. The time honoured policy of most civilised societies ( including ” conservative Catholic ” societies ), was quite correctly to stigmatise homosexual practices, while not hurting the actual indivividual. In effect, hating the sin, while loving the sinner. Science agrees with this. No reputable blood transfusion board would accept donations from a practicing homosexual. The issue is not Norris’s homosexuality. it’s his ( primarily anti-Catholic/Papal ) bigotry

  • wee buns

    Well then it is for different reasons that we disagree with Norris for president.

    Homosexual activity isn’t a sin as far as I’m concerned but it must be practiced and promoted as being within the law…despite the ‘nuances’.

  • Alias

    The gullible Irish would certainly have been compliant enough to elect Norris as President if the political class and the MSN desired it prior to his views on pederasty becoming public knowledge.

    While the President, contrary to popular public misconception, isn’t actually the head of state according to the Irish constitution, they wouldn’t elect him now to any office where he would be seen as a role model or otherwise endorsed.

  • Los Leandros

    Alias, you are absolutely correct. In addition to a lot of wilful gullibility in relation to David Norris, he is also lucky to have a very compliant/campaigning media working on his behalf. RTE in particular have been shameless in prostituting professional/objective journalism on his behalf. Most of the other media outlets have been similarly unbalanced. The only one who is scuppering his campaign is David Norris himself. Everytime he opens his mouth, he digs a deeper hole. Some of the stuff he is coming out with is beyond parody. Talk about sex on the brain. He certainly is’nt doing the ” homosexual image ” any favours !.