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A Gay President for Ireland?

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 12:57:27 PM EST


Senator David Norris, independent politician, Joycean Scholar, Wildean wit, Shavian sage and possible next President of Ireland.
   Poll places Norris in lead for Áras - The Irish Times
An opinion poll suggests Senator David Norris is the favourite among potential candidates to be the next President.

The gay rights campaigner and Joycean scholar is favoured by 27 per cent of voters, while Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness comes second, on 13 per cent, according to a Red C survey commissioned by Paddy Power.

It shows former taoiseach Bertie Ahern is third on 12 per cent.

The survey was based on a telephone poll of a 1,000 adults, aged over 18 conducted between January 4th and 6th.

Potential Labour candidates Michael D Higgins and Fergus Finlay split the vote between them, with the poll suggesting one of the candidates could take close to 20 per cent support.


Nothing illustrates the changing nature of Irish society more dramatically than the finding of a recent opinion poll that an openly gay, intellectual, protestant, liberal/left leaning independent with almost no political base and a posh British accent is the most popular choice for the next Irish president.


See my Diary on David Norris here. As an independent he still faces a difficult hurdle in gaining a nomination to run in the Presidential election due this October.  In order to run in the election, a candidate must be nominated by at least twenty serving members of the Oireachtas (parliament), or at least four county or city councils.

As Labour is likely to nominate either Fergus Finlay or Michael D Higgins, a nomination from that quarter is unlikely. (Mary Robinson was an independent when nominated by the Labour party - even though she was a former member). This raises the possibility that David Norris could be nominated by Sinn Fein and a slew of independents elected to the Dail after the General election expected in March.   It would be a huge propaganda coup for Sinn Fein if they were to nominate the successful candidate -  as it was for the Labour Party when Mary Robinson won.

As David Norris is a protestant as well as a an openly gay gay rights campaigner, it would also burnish Sinn Fein's non-sectarian and equal opportunities credentials.  I have seen no speculation that Sinn Fein might make such a move, but a promise to support Norris's nomination seems to me to be a golden opportunity for Sinn Fein to outflank Labour and gain much broader acceptability on the left/liberal spectrum of Irish society - and even amongst conservative Irish protestants and secularists more generally.

The comparisons with Mary Robinson's transformative term as Irish President are apt.  David and Mary were both elected Senators for the Trinity College Dublin constituency, and collaborated closely on the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform.  Women's equality has made significant strides in Irish society since her election, and the cause of non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation would similarly receive a huge fillip should Norris be elected.

The poll also confirms former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern's fall from grace. Once an extremely popular Taoiseach, he has taken much of the blame for the economic collapse and his support - at 12% - mirrors Fianna Fail's current standing in opinion polls.

Michael D Higgins is a veteran Labour politician and cabinet minister. sociologist and poet; whilst Fergus Finlay is a popular former chef de cabinet of the Irish Labour Party, media commentator and Chief Executive of the Barnardo's children's charity in Ireland. Their combined support of c. 20% in the poll mirrors Labour's current standing in opinion polls.

Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness is a former journalist and somewhat undistinguished member of the European Parliament. It should be noted that no candidate has yet been formally nominated and many potential candidates have not yet declared their interest. Public attention will not shift to the Presidential election until some time after the general election expected in March.

In the past, nominations to run in a Presidential election have been effectively monopolised by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour, as only these parties had any prospect of holding 20 Parliamentary seats or controlling four County or City Councils. However if current opinion polls prove to be accurate, then Sinn Fein and various left leaning independents could achieve the 20 seat threshold and gain the power to nominate a candidate for the first time.

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Title typo corrected.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 12:42:50 PM EST
Thanks - I've just corrected it as well so it may have been a simultaneous edit!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 12:59:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No party in their right mind would nominate Norris - he'd be far too independent. I can't see him making a full term without provoking a constitutional crisis of some kind.

It'd be a great ride though - and even the old guard might vote for him in preference to a lot of the other options. I was "discussing" this with an older female relative (hi mom!) and even she said that even though he's a one of them that it'd be better than most of the other options, especially the likes of Bertie. A Sinn Fein nomination would seal her vote ...

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 01:28:27 PM EST
I have been surprised by how positively even conservative Catholics or nationalists view David.  His moral courage in not hiding his homosexuality even when that was a criminal offence in Ireland and his openness about his views in general are much appreciated.  People are tired of the mealy mouthed shape shifters that pass for political leaders in Ireland.  Of course a majority of the 73% who did not name him as their first choice could yet united against David Norris to prevent his election.  However I'm not sure that such a tacit anti-gay coalition would fare well in the election.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 01:49:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
one of them being a gay or a protestant?  Which is worse?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 01:51:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, being gay is worse than being Protestant. Just. <sigh>
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 11th, 2011 at 02:42:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sonne feine, somme feehn avaunt!

(Finnegans Wake, 593.8)

by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 04:26:37 PM EST
"Sinn Fein amhain" = Sinn fein alone would hardly be appropriate if he were nominated by a range of minor parties and independents as well as Sinn Fein - especially as many of them would otherwise b e quite hostile to Sinn fein.  However my Joyce isn't up to a more appropriate slogan!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 05:20:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see the Red C opinion poll (Irish Times, 10/1/11) shows Senator David Norris to be by far the most popular choice for President ahead of Mairead McGuinness, Bertie Ahern, Fergus Finlay and Michael D Higgins. His difficulty is going to be in securing a constitutional nomination to run in the election, as this requires the support of 20 members of the Oireachtas, or four County or City Councils.  Up until now, this has meant that only Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and (sometimes) Labour have had the wherewithal to nominate a candidate, and they generally use this opportunity to nominate one of their own.

However Mary Robinson, a former colleague and close collaborator with Norris, was technically an Independent when nominated by Labour as she had resigned from the party over the Anglo-Irish Agreement and so there is a precedent for a party nominating a non-member.  Would this not be a glorious opportunity for Sinn Fein and others to demonstrate their non-sectarian and non-discriminatory credentials by nominating an independent, Church of Ireland, and openly gay campaigner to run in the election?

Opinion polls show Sinn Fein and a variety of independents and smaller parties to be in line to achieve significantly more than 20 seats after the next General Election expected in March.  How much more likely would they be to reach that target if they were to announce, in advance, their intention to nominate Senator Norris - the most popular, independent, and widely respected potential candidate - for the Presidential election?

It is time we broke the stranglehold of the established parties on our political processes and appointments.  The electorate deserve a wider choice, and at the moment that choice is most likely to be Senator Norris should he be given the opportunity to stand.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 11th, 2011 at 07:03:14 AM EST
What role does the president play on the irish political scene?

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jan 11th, 2011 at 04:32:08 PM EST
Mostly symbolic and ceremonial, although he/she can refer any Bills they are asked to sign by the Government to the Supreme Court to test their constitutionality.  Mostly its about providing a non partisan focus for national unity and pride - a lot of openings, support for community groups, and worthy speeches - especially when abroad.

However Mary Robinson rejuvenated the office by championing many marginalised groups and causes and Mary McAleese, as a Belfast born northern nationalist, provides a semblance of all-Ireland cultural/social unity even whilst Northern Ireland is part of the UK.

Should Norris be elected, he would be a living embodiment of the rehabilitation of LGBT rights - homosexual acts were a crime until 1993 and Norris and Robinson were in the forefront of the decriminalisation process.

His election would also signal the rehabilitation of the "anglo-Irish" tradition of Yeats et al which had been somewhat marginalised by Irish Catholic nationalism and the physical force Sinn Fein tradition.

It would therefore be quite a reach for Sinn Fein to endorse him, but he has also condemned Northern Loyalist violence and Sinn Fein have worked quite well with Northern Loyalists in Northern Ireland.

The centenary of the 1916 rising occurs during the term of office of the next President.  Given that Norris has condemned the 1916 leaders as terrorists, this would put him very much at odds with Sinn Fein.

On the other hand, many people would take the view that it's time to move on from such disputes.  His call for Ireland to rejoin the Commonwealth could be more problematic except that that body is now largely an intergovernmental cooperation and sporting organisation only.

Again, many people would take the view that there is no need for |Ireland to stress its independence from the UK any more, and as many people of Irish descent live in the UK and the Commonwealth, closer diplomatic and sporting ties would only reflect this.


Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 11th, 2011 at 05:47:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sinn Fein should nominate Norris - Letters, Opinion - Independent.ie

I see the Red C/Paddy Power opinion poll shows Senator David Norris to be the most popular choice for president ahead of Mairead McGuinness, Bertie Ahern, Fergus Finlay and Michael D Higgins.

His difficulty is going to be in securing a constitutional nomination to run in the election, as this requires the support of 20 members of the Oireachtas, or four county or city councils. Up until now, this has meant that only Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and (sometimes) Labour have had the wherewithal to nominate a candidate, and they generally use this opportunity to nominate one of their own.

However, Mary Robinson was technically an independent when nominated by Labour as she had resigned from the party over the Anglo-Irish Agreement and so there is a precedent for a party nominating a non-member.

Would this not be a glorious opportunity for Sinn Fein and others to demonstrate their non-sectarian and non-discriminatory credentials by nominating an independent, Church of Ireland, and openly gay campaigner to run in the election?

Opinion polls show Sinn Fein and a variety of independents and smaller parties to be in line to achieve significantly more than 20 seats after the next General Election.

How much more likely would they be to reach that target if they were to announce, in advance, their intention to nominate Mr Norris -- the most popular, independent, and widely respected potential candidate -- for the presidential election?

It is time we broke the stranglehold of the established parties on our political processes and appointments. The electorate deserve a wider choice, and at the moment that choice is most likely to be Mr Norris should he be given the opportunity to stand.

Frank Schnittger

The Independent is Ireland's most widely read daily and is generally sympathetic to Fine Gael and hostile to Sinn Fein.  All the more surprising, therefore, that it was they, and not the Irish Times which published the LTE.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 12th, 2011 at 05:40:42 AM EST
Well done Frank, good luck with this

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jan 12th, 2011 at 11:30:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Norris should aim for seat in Dail - Letters, Opinion - Independent.ie

I hope the suggestion by Frank Schnittger, (Letters, January 12), that Sinn Fein should consider nominating Senator David Norris for the post of President of Ireland, falls on deaf ears.

Mr Schnittger indicated such a move would be "a glorious opportunity for Sinn Fein to demonstrate their non-sectarian and non-discriminatory credentials by nominating an independent, Church of Ireland, openly gay campaigner to run in the election".

There have been eight Presidents of Ireland and two of those have been Protestant. Not a bad percentage.

Mr Norris has, on several occasions, denounced the executed leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising as 'terrorists'. The fact that the incoming President will be in office when the 1916 Easter Rising centenary commemorations take place in 2016, would pose problems for Mr Norris and the State.

Also, in May 2010, Mr Norris called for Ireland to re-join the British Commonwealth. This would amount to a rejection of the separatist aspect of Irish independence.

I would like to see Mr Norris seek election to Dail Eireann. His energy and talents would be wasted by the constraints of office of the President.

Tom Cooper
Knocklyon, Dublin 16

Draft response:

Tom Cooper make three predictable arguments against Sinn Fein nominating Senator Norris to run in the Presidential election all of which would be aired during any election campaign and on which the electorate could make their own decision in due course.

His first argument is that there have already been an adequate percentage of Protestant Presidents of Ireland. Fair enough, but none of these were nominated by Sinn Fein, and none were elected since the Peace process in Northern Ireland led to a formal rapprochement between both communities there.  Sinn Fein now seeks to enter the political mainstream in the Republic, and it is important that they should do so on an explicitly non-sectarian basis.

His second argument is that Senator Norris' election would cause problems for the state on the centenary of the 1916 rising as he has denounced the leaders of the rising as terrorists. Again, this is an arguable position, but are we really so immature as a  nation that we cannot entertain differing views on what happened 100 years ago?

Finally Mr. Cooper argues that Senator Norris' call for Ireland to rejoin the Commonwealth would undermine Irish independence and thus makes him an unsuitable candidate for such office.  Again, the electorate are entitled to take various views on this, but is our independence really so insecure as to be capable of being undermined by our membership of what is now little more than a sporting organisation?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 01:17:56 PM EST
In brief: Ballsy president . . . Politicians . . . Cardinal Logue - Letters, Opinion - Independent.ie
Tom Cooper (Letters, January 18) misses a salient fact. David Norris as president will be able to refer legislation to the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

He can address the Dail and the public on matters of grave concern such as the current economic crisis.

He will, after many years of doing so in the Seanad, be a strong independent voice devoted to the welfare of the Irish people.

Other presidents, including Mary McAleese, who backed off from referring the IMF/EU deal to the Supreme Court, failed to avail of what powers were available to them.

This fact only reinforces the need for a president with balls. In speaking up time and time again for the Irish people, David Norris has proven this.

Pauline Bleach
NSW, Australia

It looks like we have at least got a conversation going...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 19th, 2011 at 02:12:33 PM EST
This is a very good result from a LTE.

On the face of it being contradicted might not look as the best outcome, but it is as the back-and-forth is more likely to be interesting. Congrats on hitting the right angle to set it in motion.

I hope Sinn Fein's strategists picks it up.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Jan 20th, 2011 at 07:13:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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