Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Norris Affair.

He is a martyr, burnt at the at stake for liberal Ireland, a good man hounded from office in the to paraphrase  Perjurerus Maximus on another. He has been prevented from being president by a vile coalition of Constitutional Niceties, Zionists and the revanchist running dogs of Conservative Ireland.

Shock horror but none of this is true and David Norris is the victim of no-one but himself and his own very bad judgement. Worse again if he is the victim of anything it is of a lazy, pro-liberal biased press who never asked about or looked at his record except through their own very tinted spectacles.

Again let me declare an interest: I gave David advice, none of it sought and absolutely none of it followed, on three occasions about his campaign. I attended one of his fund-raisers and I would willingly have worked for his campaign. So not alone am I not neutral on the issues, I come with a great big lumpy subjective bias for Norris.

If Martin McAleese had been caught in bed with a 15 year old girl and Mary McAleese wrote a letter saying that he should not go to gaol because it was not a crime in other jurisdictions and he had not received adequate legal counsel would we think it was fine? Would it betray an unacceptable attitude to to sex with those under-age?

When the remarks David made to Helen Lucy Burke re-surfaced I, like many, was prepared to ignore John Waters's ( a man whose reputation rightly increases daily, one shining star in that appalling rag) upholding Ms Burke's truthfulness and dismiss the article. Ms Burke has, despite Waters's character reference, something of a reputation since her days as a food critic and I'm not a journalist, I'm a partisan. No journalist went looking, poking or digging just as no journalist turned a serious eye on David Norris in the time he has been a senator.

As  a Senator, David Norris was accorded a kind of pass, his outbursts might be wild but he carried a get out of jail free card. That is understandable: there were enough hypocrites, corrupt chancers and con-men running the show that one single senator, a man who had to fight to the European Court to remove the police from the end of his, and others', beds, was a very low priority. Investigative journalism is a rare art form in Ireland: there is, to borrow football parlance, only one Susan O Keeffe and the Seanad merits little attention.

Tough campaigns are good for democracy and institutions. If you can't survive the heat or are carrying baggage better be found out during the campaign than in office. Presidential campaigns, because of their length, their personality rather than policy driven nature (its a personality office) and the small number of candidates are tough and ruthlessly searching. Its a sad fact that what helps the search are political rivals: no sane political campaigner would rely on the toothless blind mice journos so titbits are dropped into their laps. You cannot give a gift of the unreal. It does not matter where the Norris Letters came from: good journalism (of which Ireland has a shocking paucity) should have turned them up.

David Norris was not, to be pedantic, a presidential candidate. He was a candidate for nomination for that race. This is a small point in the aftermath of his campaign's implosion but an important. With a commanding lead in the polls and a huge head start on the other campaigns David Norris's campaign had never capitalised on these strengths. a huge bureaucracy had been created, directors of this and that but no single mission statement and no one involved seemed to have the least clue of the small practicalities of a campaign. Never was this campaign setting the story: that simple fundamental was ignored.

These faults meant that councils were NOT voting for Norris and the Plan B of 20 Oireachtais Members was visibly Plan-B-very-much-Second-Best option- no way to treat touchy new TDs and senators. The campaign was well off the rails long before the story of his boyfriend's conviction broke. That story made it impossible for Michaél Martin to gift him enough Oireachtais members to get over the line. This may always have been beyond Martin anyway with Eamon O Cuiv busily spinning webs in the dark West and his beady eye on Grandpa's job.

Nobody can be their lover's keeper: David Norris was in no way to blame for the fact that his then boyfriend committed statutory rape. A letter for leniency is, of itself, not a problem either. It is the contents of that letter and his attitude to the crime and to Ezra Yitzhak Nawi that are the trouble ( and troubling issue). Love they say is blind but Ezra Yitzhak Nawi was a sex criminal, the sort David Norris made a profession of denouncing in the Catholic Church and his attitude to his lover would appear to be an uncomfortable one with his attitude to men having sex with boys in general. Dressing it up with allusions to classical Greece or one's own sexual maturity only deepen the impression that David does not understand the issue.

Now that failure has left him in serious trouble: it is not just his Presidential campaign that has imploded but his entire public life. It is hard to see how he can continue now in the same vein or even perhaps, continue as a Senator. He is, sadly, very, very damaged.

The real issue is the ridiculous attitude of most of the media. it took a citizen-journalist blogger and a foreign newspaper to break a story that was in public domain since 1997.( Ezra Yitzhak Nawi  only ceased to be David Norris's lover in 2001- interview with Joe Jackson Sunday Independent 2002) Clearly there are different standards for some than others. Bishops, conservative politicians, anybody not sharing the right-on views better watch out: some others can glide by. Even now it is hard to find any journalist covering this story either honestly. There is an underlying assumption that the implosion of the Norris campaign is due to some malign effort rather rather than the shockingly poor judgement of David Norris.

We have a small media, we are a small country. That should not mean small low, standards but clearly we have those too. Its time for some serious examination of the self satisfied group of semi-literates who are our journalists, editors and media providers. News is a set of items selected by agenda: when the providers profess "no agenda" it is time to really distrust them.

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