Irish Republican News · August 3, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Child abuse scandal hits Presidential campaign

Senator David Norris yesterday withdrew his candidacy from the 26-County presidential election in the autumn after a scandal erupted over his intervention on behalf of an Israeli man, a former lover, who was convicted of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy in 1992.

The flamboyant Trinity College academic and gay rights advocate had courted controversy before, when in a magazine interview, he sought to distinguish between pederasty (“love of boys”) and paedophilia.

In the 2002 interview with Magill magazine, Norris spoke out against the “hysteria” over child abuse, and that, as a child, he “would have greatly relished the prospect of an older, attractive, mature man taking me under his wing, lovingly introducing me to sexual realities.”

He added that a penetrative child rapist could not be compared with “the teacher, or Christian Brother, who puts his hand into a boy’s pocket during a history lesson”.

The Senator later said the comments were taken out of context in a conversation about classical Greece.

But the emergence of a series of letters, one of which has now been published, brought about his rapid withdrawal from the race after three leading members of his campaign dramatically quit within 48 hours.

The letter demonstrates that Norris had sought to use his position as a Senator and a future Presidential candidate to intercede on behalf of Israeli activist Ezra Nawi.

Mr Nawi, who has campaigned for human rights in Palestine, was convicted in 1997 of rape and jailed, despite Senator Norris’s letters to the Israeli court.

The controversy came amid public outrage in Ireland at the latest report on child sex abuse by members of the Catholic church, on this occasion in the diocese of Cloyne in the south of the country.

In a brief but dramatic address on the steps of his home in central Dublin, the Joycean scholar said he needed to act decisively to halt the “negativity” that had engulfed his campaign since the weekend.

“I deeply regret the most recent of all the controversies concerning my former partner of 25 years ago, Ezra Nawi,” said Mr Norris. “The fallout from his disgraceful behaviour has now spread to me and is in danger of contaminating others close to me both in my political and personal life.”

Mr Norris dismissed speculation that his future in the Seanad was in question and made no reference to speculation that Israeli intelligence may have sought to sabotage his campaign.

He accepted that he would have found it very difficult to recover from the controversy, even if he had garnered the necessary support to become President.

“It was going to become much nastier and much worse . . . Other people would have got caught up collaterally,” he said.

Although ahead in the polls, he had struggled to receive the endorsement of enough Irish parliamentarians to secure a nomination.

In announcing the end of his campaign, Mr Norris said he was proud to have made it possible for “a gay person to be seen as a viable candidate for the highest office in the land”.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News