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Presidential candidate condones pederasty?

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jul 31st, 2011 at 09:49:09 AM EST

An election for the Presidency of Ireland will be held on 27th. October, and the field of candidates is beginning to take shape. It is difficult to make the case that European Tribune readers should be interested in this election because the office is largely a ceremonial one, and one of limited significance in a larger European context. It used to be viewed as something of a retirement home for retired Prime or Cabinet ministers (the President lives in a magnificent mansion in Dublin's Phoenix Park) but the popular significance of the office was transformed by our last two Presidents.

However the current campaign has also raised broader issues around the appropriate limits of public sexual morality and the representations that public office holders can legitimately make on behalf of their partners, friends and constituents.

Mary Robinson was elected President in the wake of a long struggle against conservative forces in the areas of women's equality, contraception, divorce, and the interference of the state (acting as a proxy for the Catholic Church) in what should be private matters.  The election of Mary McAleese, who hails from Belfast, gave some recognition to the Catholic nationalist minority in Northern Ireland who felt they had been abandoned and forgotten when the Irish state was set up to their exclusion.

Both were elected amid considerable controversy - Mary Robinson, because her feminist views were not yet embraced by the establishment, and Mary McAleese, because she was seen in some quarters as dangerously close to Northern Irish Republican paramilitaries. Both succeeded in becoming almost universally popular and redefining, to some extent, what Ireland was all about. Mary Robinson's term can be seen as bringing the gross marginalisation of women to an end (although full equality is still some way off).  The Queen's visit last May, the highlight of Mary McAleese's term,  can be seen as bringing centuries of Anglo-Irish antagonism to a formal end.

The current campaign is being riven by controversy concerning the candidate currently leading in the polls - prominent Gay rights campaigner David Norris - over letters he wrote in support of a former partner convicted of a statutory rape of a 15 year old Palestinian boy in Israel in 1997 and an interview he gave to a restaurant critic, in 2002, in which he appeared to extol the virtues of classical Greek society in which older men sometimes initiated adolescent boys in the practice of sex. However he is running for election in modern Ireland, not ancient Greece, and given the trauma surrounding child sexual abuse that is currently convulsing Ireland, both controversies could be very damaging to his campaign.


Norris 'remains committed' to presidential campaign

A letter written on Seanad notepaper in which the Trinity Senator seeks clemency for Mr Yizhak was published online and in some newspapers today.

In the letter, Mr Norris describes Mr Yizhak as "an intelligent, honest trustworthy, good and moral person." It goes on to claim that Mr Yizhak was "lured into a carefully prepared trap" and had "unwisely" pleaded guilty to the charges against him

Director of communications Jane Cregan and director of elections Derek Murphy are among those to resign from Mr Norris's campaign team following the latest revelations.

In an interview in today's Sunday Independent  the Senator admitted his campaign was in trouble but said he was "absolutely committed" to running for the presidency.

Mr Norris' campaign was embroiled in controversy earlier in the summer when comments he made about sexual activity between older and younger men and boys in Magill  magazine in January 2002 resurfaced.

The interview with restaurant critic and columnist Helen Lucy Burke was circulated to county councillors in May following Mr Norris' announcement that he was going to seek a nomination to run for the presidency.

Ms Burke said Mr Norris' "dangerous" and "shocking" views on sexuality made him an unsuitable person to be president of Ireland.

Mr Norris told the Irish Times  at that stage that he had engaged in an academic discussion on sexual relations between older men and younger men and boys arising from Plato's Symposium and ancient Greek classical literature.

"I made a distinction between paedophilia and pederasty, which is a totally different thing. To the average person it would not make any difference I suppose but to me it did because I knew what I was talking about. That got mixed up and stayed mixed up.

"I abhor with every fibre of my being the idea of interference with children, sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional abuse. My record on that speaks for itself."

The controversy was revived a few weeks later when an interview Mr Norris gave to the Daily Mail  last year covering much of the same ground was reprinted.

While they set back Mr Norris' prospects of getting a nomination from county councils he appeared to have recovered in recent weeks following an Irish Times  poll that showed him leading the presidential race with 25 per cent support.

There are, of course, questions being asked as to why letters written in 1997 and an interview given almost 10 years ago have suddenly been brought back into the public domain by a pro-Israeli blogger and by the restaurant critic who conducted the interview over a meal. It certainly seems plausible that Norris waxed somewhat over lyrical in his praise of the sexual practices of ancient Greece - allegedly in an "academic" context  - and his letters in support of his former partner is in line of a long tradition of Irish parliamentarians writing character references and letters of support for friends, colleagues, and constituents in trouble the world over. Many aren't worth the paper they are written on, but Norris' submission to the Israeli High Court is somewhat presumptuous and extraordinarily detailed. It failed, however, to express any sympathy with the victim of the crime.

There is no suggestion that Norris has himself practised pederasty or condoned paedophilia, and indeed his record of campaigning in support of gay and children's rights at a time when homosexuality was illegal and child abuse was swept under the carpet is much admired. I find it quite extraordinary the degree to which Norris' campaign had recovered from the previous interview revelations to retain his leadership in opinion polls, but these latest revelations may be the coup de grace.  So far Norris' campaign to achieve a nomination for the election through getting a (constitutional) minimum of four County or City Councils to support him has been incompetent, and his alternate pathway to securing a nomination - obtaining the support of 20 members of Parliament - has been stuck at 15.  It will now be increasingly difficult for him to achieve that 20 vote minimum to achieve a nomination without which he cannot stand as a candidate.

With the success of Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese the office of President has become an important symbol of national Unity and of where, the Irish people see ourselves going in the future. It seems unlikely that David Norris, for all his much admired courage in fighting for the rights of those who had been suppressed in Irish society, will be able to overcome concerns that he has been less than discrete and astute in the expression of his own views.  Certainly his management of his own campaign has been extremely amateurish to date, and several key members of his campaign team have now resigned.

We are then, however, left with a relatively uninspiring field of candidate of which I add this potted summary for your delectation:

Fine Gael

With the demise of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael are the dominant ruling party in Ireland, and continue to enjoy a honeymoon in the public affections with 38% support. Ordinarily one would therefore expect the Fine Gael candidate to win the election, but Fine Gael has never won a Presidential election campaign before. John Bruton, former Taoiseach and EU ambassador to the USA would probably have been a shoe-in for the nomination had he wanted the job.  In the event, four candidates vied for the Fine Gael Nomination:

  1. Pat Cox, former President of the European Parliament, whose main problem is that he was a member of the now defunct neo-liberal Progressive Democrats, then an Independent, and has only just joined Fine Gael, leading to resentment among long time party members that he is only using them to boost his chances. In addition the "European" brand isn't what it used to be in Ireland.

  2. Gay Mitchell, a European Parliament member for Dublin and sometime junior Government minister. Some joke that Gay is the second gay in the race, but in political terms, Gay is as straight as they come: A hard working populist constituency worker who has few achievements to his name, despite a long career in politics.

  3. Mairead McGuinness, a European Parliament member for Leinster and former journalist, with few discernible achievements in either role.

  4. Avril Doyle, former member of the Irish and European Parliaments and member of a long time prominent Fine Gael family dynasty. Her detractors joked that she would have to downsize her living accommodation if she won the Presidency, as the President's Mansion is apparently somewhat smaller than her own...

In the event, Gay Mitchell won the Fine Gael nomination without creating much excitement outside of die hard Fine Gael supporters particularly in his Dublin base. He currently stands at 21% in the polls, only about half his party's support, and just behind David Norris on 25%.

Labour

Labour had three candidates for their nomination:

  1. Michael D. Higgins, an native Irish speaker, poet, sociologist, author and Cabinet Minister with a long history of supporting progressive causes, but few discernible achievements in Office. Some feel that, at 70, he is somewhat old for the job.

  2. Fergus Finlay, former Chef the Cabinet of the Labour party, "spin doctor", author, commentator, journalist and head of a prominent children's charity.  Perhaps Ireland's answer to Alastair Campbell, although also a very personable and popular commentator.

  3. Kathleen O'Meara, a women of no great distinction. It is difficult to see why a politician who has failed to win even one general election and who has no particular achievements outside politics should see herself as qualified for the Office, other than as part of an affirmative action programme for women candidates.

Michael D. Higgins won the nomination and currently stands third in the Polls, at 18%, in line with Labour party support. He is also the most "transfer friendly" of the candidates, however, and might now become the favourite.

Fianna Fail

Still toxic in the polls, Fianna Fail would prefer not to give the electorate another opportunity to humiliate them just yet.  Memories of their last period in office are still too raw. Former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, is said to have wanted the job, but his unpopularity is such that Fianna Fail have run a mile from nominating him. Two other candidates have expressed an interest:

  1. Eamon O'Cuiv, grandson of Eamon De Valera, former Taoiseach and President, and former Cabinet Minister for "Craggy Island", also known as the Department for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

  2. Brian Crowley, Member of the European Parliament, whose chief achievement appears to be becoming a member of the European Parliament despite his disability (he is wheelchair bound following an accident).

At this stage it is not clear whether Fianna Fail will contest the election or support any other candidate, but at 11% in the polls, their leading candidate, Eamon O'Cuiv, does not exactly inspire confidence that he can spark a revival of Fianna Fail's fortunes...

Sinn Fein

At this stage it seems unlikely that Sinn Fein will nominate a candidate or support any other.  I had a somewhat mischievous letter published in the Irish Independent last January (prior to the General Election) suggesting they should nominate David Norris:

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

Independents

Two independents now look as if they will achieve sufficient support from County Councils to be nominated to stand in the election.

  1. Seán Gallagher, entrepreneur and panellist on the Dragons' Den television programme and former member of the Fianna Fáil National Executive. Down playing his Fianna Fail roots as much as possible, he appears to believe that his TV profile allied to an unremarkable business career qualifies him for the job.

  2. Mary Davis, disability rights campaigner and best known as organiser of the very successful 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games. Mary would complete a hat-trick of successive Presidents called Mary with a strong profile in voluntary and community organisations.

Niall O'Dowd, New York based journalist and publisher, confident of President Clinton and high profile "Irish American" attempted to gain a nomination on the grounds that he could represent the Irish diaspora.

I wrote an unpublished letter to the editor on his candidacy as follows:

Many thanks for publishing  a well written piece by Bruce Morrison (23rd. June) on Nial O'Dowd's possible candidancy for the Presidency. It is a welcome corrective to the provo loving, Britain bashing, and misty-eyed adherents of Glocca Morra caricature painted by your former correspondent, Walter Ennis (15th. June).  

O'Dowd's candidacy may have uncomfortable resonances of the returned Yank coming to teach the locals a thing or two, and if we put the "selling Brand Ireland" function of the Presidency too brazenly to the forefront, we are reducing the dignity of the office. Chief executive of Enterprise Ireland or An Bord Failte it is not.  

Having said that, the Presidency doesn't have an awfully big Raison D'etre in and of itself, as many commentators have noted, given its very limited constitutional powers. It is very much up to whoever is elected to make something meaningful of the office.  

For many people, Mary Robinson's election signalled the dawn of a more inclusive and progressive society where women could become equals. Mary McAleese helped to discharge an obligation to give some recognition to the many in the North of Ireland who had felt excluded by the Treaty. David Norris could do the same for the LGBT community and others who have felt marginalised because of their non-conformity to very restrictive social norms..  

But O'Dowd could do something to discharge our obligations to those we often forced to emigrate from this isle. It is not so much what they can now do for us in our hour of need, but also what we still owe them.  A vote for recent emigrants would be a good start - as is the case for emigrants from most other European states. But why not also some representation, if not in the Senate, then perhaps, if only to make  the point, in the Presidency itself?  

At the very least, O'Dowd's candidacy would strengthen the field and widen the choice for voters. It is legitimate to define ourselves not just by those who happen to be resident on this island at the present time.  

But please spare us too much of "what Irish America can do for us" talk. If anything, we owe them for forcing them out.  

And even if we are currently at a low ebb, we do not want to put out the begging bowl again. This crisis can only be resolved by we ourselves, for ourselves, not by our European "partners", and not by our Irish American kinsfolk.  

If anything, the Presidency has to be symbol of our self-sufficiency, pride in what we are, and sovereignty:  Not our dependency on others no matter how interdependent sovereign nations have now in reality become.  

So fine man he undoubtedly is, I probably ultimately wouldn't vote for him, even if I would welcome his addition to the ballot paper. The real question is: do we have anybody clearly better on offer? And isn't this the real sign of our current poverty in intellect and spirit?

As the letter indicated, we are not spoiled for choice at the moment. O'Dowd subsequently withdrew his campaign on the grounds that he didn't think he could secure a nomination. Norris may be fatally wounded by his indiscretions and inept campaign management. John Bruton didn't want the job. Pat Cox, the only other candidate who had held a major office before, has failed to secure a nomination.

However Mary McAleese wasn't a particularly well known Broadcaster and college Professor before she was elected, and has ended up doing a good job.  The real problem is perhaps that the Office has so few real constitutional powers, and so it tends to attract "personality" candidates of little intellectual or political achievement. It looks as if the Office might descend back into the retirement home it once was.  Ireland has lost its way, and it is perhaps only natural that the holder of the office of President should reflect that.  However that would be a pity given what the last two Presidents achieved. We should not underestimate the importance of having a functioning democracy in our country, and the Presidency is part of that system.

If we were to go back 15 years, which of us hasn't said and done things which were never intended for prime time and which we would now regret - especially in defence of a loved one, or over a bottle of wine. The question is: should a different standard be applied to potential Heads of State who are supposed to be wise and popular figures a large majority of people can identify with and be proud to have representing them abroad?

And is Norris really as opposed to pederasty as he now claims to be when it has become inconvenient to publicly hold such views? Have the child abuse scandals made us hypersensitive and even puritanical over all things connected with adolescents and children? I don't doubt that Norris has never harmed anyone, but his comments could be misconstrued as self-justification by those that do. Paedophiles are notoriously sophisticated at making their victims feel complicit in the process, and at persuading themselves that they are only extending paternalistic care and love.

While I would have very much wanted a President who could have continued to push the boundaries of tolerance and acceptance towards those previously discriminated against, I am now reluctantly coming to the conclusion that Norris is a man of great past struggles rather than a representative or iconic figure for the future.

The trouble is, we are then left with a very mixed bunch. Michael D Higgins would be a somewhat romantic throwback to an era of compassionate socialism and Mary Davis an embodiment of successful community and voluntary activism; Gay Mitchell a good constituency worker and Seán Gallagher a symbol of the pervasiveness of reality TV. Perhaps Bob Geldof could be persuaded to do a gig in the Park, or would Bono become tax resident in Ireland to take up the job?

At least that would fund the Presidency and much else...

Poll
If given the chance, would vote for
. David Norris (Independent) 0%
. Gay Mitchell (Fine Gael) 0%
. Michael D. Higgins (Labour) 25%
. Sean Gallagher (Independent) 0%
. Mary Davis (Independent) 25%
. Eamon O'Cuiv (Craggy Island) 0%
. Bono (Me 2) 0%
. Bob Geldoff (Boomtown crashed) 25%
. Barack Obama (Upon extradition from the USA) 25%

Votes: 4
Results | Other Polls
Display:
Don't underestimate the power of name recognition, particularly for somebody on tv. In a field as lacklustre as you describe, Sean Gallagher could well benefit.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Jul 31st, 2011 at 01:32:50 PM EST
In fairness, all the likely candidates have been around long enough to have considerable name recognition.  Some may have too much - "Oh no, not him again!"

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 31st, 2011 at 01:44:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have added the following to the end of the diary:

If we were to go back 15 years, which of us hasn't said and done things which were never intended for prime time and which we would now regret - especially in defence of a loved one, or over a bottle of wine.

The question is: should a different standard be applied to potential Heads of State who are supposed to be wise and popular figures a large majority of people can identify with and proud to have representing them abroad?

And is Norris really as opposed to pederasty as he now claims when it has become inconvenient to publicly hold such views as he seeks the Presidency?

Have the child abuse scandals made us hypersensitive and even puritanical over all things connected with adolescents and children?

I don't doubt that Norris has never harmed anyone, but his comments could be construed as self-justification by those that do.  Paedophiles are notoriously sophisticated at making their victims feel complicit in the process, and that they are only extending paternalistic care and love.

While I would have very much wanted a President who could have continued to push the boundaries of tolerance and acceptance towards those previously discriminated against, I am now reluctantly coming to the conclusion that Norris is a man of great past struggles rather than a representative/iconic figure for the future.

The trouble is, we are then left with a very mixed bunch.  Michael D Higgins would be a somewhat romantic throwback to an era of compassionate socialism and Mary Davis an embodiment of successful community and voluntary activism. I don't know much else about her.

That's about it.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 31st, 2011 at 04:14:05 PM EST
Politicians today have to be bland and malleable. Unless they're extreme right wing.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 31st, 2011 at 06:15:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not necessarily - there is scope for eccentric Senators and members of Parliament.  But titular Head of State is about as bland as it gets.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 31st, 2011 at 06:19:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or in close contact with the owners of "serious" media.

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 Sun Jul 31st, 2011 at 06:24:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tony O'Reilly, owner of the "Independent" chain, doesn't really sponsor candidates, although historically the Irish Independent has supported Fine Gael, and particularly its neo-liberal wing. What do you expect from a rugby playing Irishman turned Irish American?  He once turned up to play in a rugby match in a Rolls-Royce for gods sake.  Any self respecting rugby player would have turned up in a BMW.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 31st, 2011 at 06:32:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now I have read the letter, and find nothing strange there.

Yeah, fine he has pleaded for a friend who was ultimatley convicted, but part of that plea is that it was a set-up by the cops. Is every celebrity and internet commenter who claims to know the innocence of Assange or DSK guilty by association if they are jailed?

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 Sun Jul 31st, 2011 at 06:52:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I understand it, the plea was for clemency after conviction, and looked for mercy rather than an overthrow of the verdict.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 31st, 2011 at 07:00:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Norris' former lover is a noted pro-Palestinian activist in Israel/Palestine:

Gay Israeli Defender of Palestinian Human Rights Ezra Nawi Spared Jail ... For Now

"Ezra has become a legendary figure among the Palestinians in South Hebron, left-wing and pro-peace Israeli activists, LGBT campaigners and international opponents of Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

"Being an out gay man is mostly easy in London or New York. But in the Middle East, it takes real guts, especially when there are fundamentalists on both sides who want to kill gay people," he pointed out.

"By supporting the human rights of the Palestinian people as an out gay man, Ezra is probably doing more than anyone else to undermine the homophobia that undoubtedly exists in sections of Palestinian society. His acceptance by growing numbers of Palestinians illustrates that homophobia can be overcome, even in very traditional communities. It refutes the common stereotype that all Arabs and Muslims are anti-gay.

"Ezra's exemplary life shows the possibility of unity, solidarity and respect between gays and straights and between Palestinians and Israelis. It suggests that prejudice and division can be conquered; that a kinder, gentler, fairer future can be won for all the people of the Middle East," said Mr Tatchell.

Ezra Nawi said that being gay has helped him understand what it is like to be a despised minority.

Speaking of the harsh anti-Palestinian policies of the Israeli authorities, he laments: "They can steal their land, demolish their homes, steal their water, imprison them for no reason and at times even kill them.

"I'm here to change reality. The only Israelis these people know are settlers and soldiers. Through me they know a different Israeli. And I'll keep coming until I know that the farmers here can work their fields," he said.

Mr. Tatchell pointed out that several years ago Ezra Nawi had a relationship with a gay Palestinian refugee, Fuad Mussa.

"Fuad fled the West Bank, fearing `honour killing' because of his homosexuality. Ezra was convicted on charges of allowing his partner to live illegally in Israel. Fuad was jailed by the Israelis," added Mr Tatchell.

"Because of Ezra's human rights work, Israeli settlers, police and soldiers have subjected him to a torrent of homophobic abuse."

Mr. Nawi has said that the Israeli authorities had not hesitated to `out' him.  "They spread rumours among the Palestinians with whom I work that I have AIDS," he reported.

I have no doubt Israel is not displeased that Norris has now been embarrassed by the association, as he has also championed the Palestinian cause.  But does that alter the facts of the statutory rape, if not the circumstances and manner of the prosecution?

h/t Oui

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 31st, 2011 at 05:22:59 PM EST
On the one hand, people should certainly follow the law in the jurisdiction they are in. On the other hand, before one starts hyperventilating over someone having sex with a 15 year old, one should perhaps note that this is not illegal in most of the EU:
(ages of consent, wikipedia)

In other words, 15 is just a number. Going as far as bringing up paedophilia in this context seems excessive. (And counter productive with respect to actual paedophilia) If there were no other abuses in the case (any element of force, abuse of a position of power) I don't see why arguing for the guy should be such a horrible thing to do. The age of consent seems to be 16 in Israel. So he missed by a year.

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 02:18:32 AM EST
Is this figure correct? There seems to be a different color for the Vatican, but I thought that the Lateran treaty made Italian law apply. Previously, the age of consent in the Vatican was much lower, I think 12.
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 02:29:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is an increasing push to treat everyone under 18 as an infant, with a sudden transition into adulthood on the 18th birthday. Part of the increasing influence of American culture here seems to be a push towards getting rid of grey areas of law and making them as black and white as possible. Much easier to sell papers that way.

We're half seriously worried about what would happen if the public health nurse discovered we allow C stir pots of egg on the hob when he's making scrambled eggs. We think the small risks are outweighed by the learning and feeling of competence, but culturally, even small risks are becoming more and more unacceptable.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 04:10:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you may feel that I am hyperventilating about a marginal indiscretion but what we are talking about here is the management and conduct of a political campaign for the Presidency at a time of unprecedented public angst about widespread child sexual abuse and its cover-up by those in authority.  A referendum on the rights of the child is due to be held shortly and significant legislation providing for mandatory reporting of reasonable suspicions of abuse to the relevant child protection authorities in direct challenge to centuries of deference to the Roman Catholic Church and the seal of the confessional is due to be proposed by the Government.

In this context, any suggestion that Norris condoned or even lauded the concept of adults having sex with young adolescents couldn't be more unfortunate, and whilst you may think 15 is just a meaningless number, it is in the nature of legislation to have to draw lines in the sand at some point.

I did refer in the diary to the possibility that we are becoming hypersensitive or even puritanical in our societal response to the child sex abuse scandals and there is certainly an element of Norris' actions of 10-15 years ago being judged in the climate prevailing today. A lot now depends on how well Norris deals with the fall-out from the "revelations" but the problem is that he has gone to ground and virtually all his campaign staff have resigned.

I have been surprised at how well he has weathered the previous (interview) storm and there is a huge amount of public goodwill towards him.  The political problem, however, is that he needs to retain his current level of support (25%) AND achieve another 25% of lower preference votes as some of his rivals are eliminated from the count in order to achieve the 50% of the vote he needs to be elected.  This is a single transferable vote, single seat election, not a multi-seat constituency election where all sorts of more marginal candidates can be elected (e.g. with 17% of the final vote in a 5 seat constituency).

So I see him being surpassed by a blander, more broadly acceptable candidate even if he still leads after the first count (of first preferences) - possibly even by Michael D. Higgins who currently lies third on 18% but who polling shows is the most transfer friendly of the candidates.

However all of this is conjecture at this stage.  The election isn't until October, and a lot can happen in the meantime. My judgement FWIW is that Norris' opportunity may have come and gone, but that is based on my personal judgement rather than any hard evidence.  It will be some time before new polling data indicates the impact of the controversy, and perhaps Norris will surprise me.  My personal sense is that he is not an outstanding campaigner outside his Dublin University base and the loss of virtually his whole campaign team does not bode well.  But I have been wrong before, and hope to be again!

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 05:38:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He's screwed. This is a perfect excuse for both local authorities and TDs and senators to decline to nominate him without looking like they're undermining democracy.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 05:42:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well his conduct of his campaign for endorsements by County Councils has been incompetent.  He never did the basic groundwork of lobbying all the county councillors personally. You can's just show up at a Council meeting and look for support - that's not the way things are done up and done the country. Decisions are made on a personal and collective basis before the Council ever meets. Anyone who has stood for the Senate through the vocational panels could have told him how this had to be done.

I think his chances of getting 20 parliamentarian to support him will depend on how well he weathers this storm - if he is still doing well in the polls in September, some of the left wing or even Sinn Fein members may  endorse him in order to let the electorate have their say. It could even be a smart move by Michael D. to support his nomination on the grounds that Michael D could benefit from his transfers in the final count - it all depends on how each of the candidates/parties feel they stand as the nomination deadline looms.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 05:54:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I don't think you are hyperventilating about a marginal indiscretion. Politically this is likely a problem and worth addressing. I just wanted to point out that the cut-off is not so clear, and what is statutory rape one place is just screwing somewhere else. In particular, I find it troublesome that paedophilia is brought up at all in such cases. 15 ought to be clearly post-pubescent. Pederasty is maybe more correct if the age difference is sufficient, but this is a more problematic term. Where is the upper limit? The age of consent? And how old must the older person be? Is a 20 year old screwing a 15 year old pederasty?

In general I find it problematic that young people seems to be often deprived of agency in concern of their well-being. We saw the same thing being said after the events of Norway. "OMG! Children at a political event! The horrors!" Often with no reference to the fact that the children in question were teenagers and young adults.

In general, I find it kinda creepy when much older people engage in sexual relationships with teenagers even when they are above age of consent. In particular when that age is relatively low. A 40 year old with a 15 year old, for example. Something seems off. But creepy doesn't mean I think it would be a good idea to legislate against.

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 06:33:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This started out as a diary about the Presidential election per se - and as the second half of my diary bears out, it is an incredibly boring campaign for an office even people in Ireland have mixed feelings about.  The pederasty angle is one that has reared its head again in the media just now, and is perhaps the only angle of wider public interest outside Ireland.

As a father of three children I would have a big problem if an older person had "interfered" with any of them before the age of 18 whilst I would be much more understanding about a teen-aged tryst. Of course the primary responsibility is with the kids themselves and the education/mentoring/self confidence/judgement I have hopefully imparted to them. The thing about pederasty I find disturbing is that it can involve a gross imbalance of power - with a dominant Priest/teacher or other person in authority perhaps abusing their position of power/trust and cultivating a vulnerable youth.

Where overt violence, financial need, drugs or coercion isn't involved, sex is all a matter of relationships (or lack of) and therefore almost impossible to legislate for without being arbitrary or intrusive. In his letter David Norris seemed to almost set himself up as an independent authority judging the matter, and I doubt that the Israeli High Court would have taken too kindly to his intervention in the specifics of the case.  It is the sort of argument I would have expected the defence attorney to make, but perhaps the process was very defective, in which case the Irish Civil Liberties Union or Civil Rights watch or some such body would have been an appropriate agency for intervention.

The political question is: was it appropriate for Norris, in his capacity as a Senator and self proclaimed Presidential aspirant, to intervene directly in a case in which he had a personal interest?  Would we even be having this conversation if there weren't doubts about Israeli Justice towards pro-Palestinian activists?

My own view is that we are talking about fine lines of judgement here and I don't have a problem with his loyalty towards an old partner and friend. I think generally the media and public reaction to the controversy has so far been reasonably fair - if somewhat sensationalist in the case of the Irish Independent. I will be very interested to see how this plays out.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 07:07:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some of the age of consent laws specify allowable age differences - which seems like a good way to avoid giving either or both of a pair of fumbling teens a record as a sex offender.

But in context, I think it's obvious that the discussion - and possibly the actions - were very much about non-consexual sex with a much younger person. However you slice that, it's Not Good, and it's also difficult to defend, especially when Ireland's culture is currently breaking through the wall of institutional denial around Catholic sexual abuse.

So although the timing is - let's say - unfortunate, it's difficult to see this story as any kind of vote winner.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 07:11:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I forget the exact numbers, but at one stage the age of consent was different for boys and girls in this country.  This could lead to a situation where 2 16 year olds were having a fumble, and one was committing an offence, and one was not...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 07:24:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Clicking around wikipedia that appears fairly common and for some countries only female age of consent is listed. Also, in countries where homosexuality is not banned, a different age of gay consent is not that unusual.

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 Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 02:25:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I assumed that if the charge was statutory rape, it was in fact consensual. Otherwise it would be rape of a minor. Something far more serious. Non-consensual sex, regardless of the age, should certainly be a prison worth offence. Rape of a child is even worse.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 07:41:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Norris under fire over pleas for ex-partner | The Post
David Norris did not disclose to fellow Oireachtas members that his former partner, Ezra Nawi, had a conviction for sex with an underage youth when he asked them to appeal to the Israeli authorities on Nawi's behalf.

Norris has repeatedly raised the treatment of his former partner in the Senate and in 2009 the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee wrote to the Israeli authorities on Nawi's behalf at Norris' behest.

Nawi, who is a Jewish Israeli citizen, is an activist on behalf of Palestinians in the West Bank and has frequently been in conflict with the Israeli authorities for his activities.

He was in a relationship with Norris for 26 years, which ended in 2002.

A member of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee confirmed to The Sunday Business Post that Norris had not disclosed his former partner's 1992 conviction when he asked them to make representations on Nawi's behalf.

According to the respected Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Nawi has convictions for sexually assaulting a minor, illegal use of weapons and drug offences.


Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 07:48:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose this view mirrors my own - as expressed above - but with more first hand information on what Norris' supporters are saying...

For Norris it's now a question of judgment

THE PROSPECTS for David Norris of getting a nomination to run for the presidency have suffered a serious setback as a result of the latest controversy to engulf his campaign.

While Norris is adamant that his campaign will continue, even some of the prominent backers who are still standing by him are doubtful about the wisdom of carrying on.

The latest controversy has inflicted a body blow to the Trinity Senator's campaign to get on the ballot paper for the presidential election.

The fact that Norris wrote a letter to an Israeli court pleading for clemency for his former partner who had been convicted of having sex with a minor raises a big question mark about his judgment.

In the current political climate, with so much focus on the failure of the Catholic Church authorities to respond appropriately when informed of the abuse of minors, many people will find it difficult to justify Norris's response in 1997 to the conviction of his partner five years earlier.

The fact that so many key members of his campaign team have resigned is a huge problem for Norris on a number of levels. For a start it has thrown his campaign into organisational turmoil at a crucial time.

More importantly it demonstrates that some of the people who know Norris best no longer have confidence in his suitability to be president of Ireland. If his own staff don't have confidence in his judgment, how can the Irish people be persuaded that they should have?



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 06:11:42 AM EST
Israelis deny plot as Norris supporters continue to defect - National News, Frontpage - Independent.ie
As the internet went wild with claims of Israeli involvement in publicising the case, the Israeli embassy in Dublin intervened to deny involvement.

Last night the Irish internet blogger who recently reignited the controversy over Nawi's criminal past admitted he was motivated to publicise the case by his own pro-Israeli views.

Mr Norris has been a critic of Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people -- but has also always defended the state's right to exist.

But blogger John Connolly (22), based in London, said he had not been in contact with the Israeli authorities before publishing details of Ezra Nawi's conviction.

Instead he said he felt a "bit betrayed" and now believes the person who tipped him off about Nawi's past was a supporter of Michael D Higgins.

"I think now that in fact this person was sympathetic to Michael D Higgins, and perhaps had the idea of getting Norris out of the race for Higgins to eat up his votes," he said last night.

There is no suggestion that Mr Higgins himself, or anyone associated with his campaign, had any involvement in the revelations.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 06:21:17 AM EST
Someone here said (about some case here in Australia):
"If you have done stupid things in your youth - do not go in to the politic later".
There is not anyone who haven't done or said something that could hurt him later in life. Politic is extra sensitive and it's just a matter of time when things can surface. Our personal opinion about something may be hurtful for political ambitions at some point and at certain place. Honesty has nothing to do in politic and honest people do not enter that field (and if they do they are ousted sooner rather than later).
My personal opinion is that all tho some people can stay immature all their life (even if they are not clinically idiots) and even tho young people can be mature very early today in other areas, EMOTIONALY there is an age (for me it is 18 still) when MOST of the people can be considered mature enough to take consequences of their actions. I am totally against much older people being sexually involved with much younger people for many different reasons. Age of consent differs from culture to culture (and trough the times) and there is a good reason for this (many reasons are actually economical)...
I don't have any advice about Irish election...I do not know enough.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 08:35:38 AM EST
It;s not looking good...

Doubt over Norris bid as McGrath pulls support - The Irish Times - Mon, Aug 01, 2011

Senator David Norris's presidential campaign received a major setback tonight after a key backer withdrew his support.

Dublin North Central TD Finian McGrath had been co-ordinating Mr Norris's campaign to get the signatures of Oireachtas members but said this evening that he would not be signing Senator Norris's nomination papers.

A number of Mr Norris's 15 Oireachtas backers have expressed continuing support, while some are considering whether they can honour their commitment in light of revelations at the weekend that Mr Norris wrote a letter in 1997 to the Israeli authorities pleading for clemency for his former partner who had been convicted of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy.

-----snip

Another Oireachtas member, Waterford TD John Halligan, also said tonight he was withdrawing his support, in a further blow to Senator Norris.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 1st, 2011 at 05:08:59 PM EST


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