'I never endorsed paedophilia, I never endorsed incest' - Norris
INDEPENDENT senator David Norris is desperately trying to salvage his presidential election campaign in the fallout from his comments on paedophilia and sexuality.
But several TDs and senators believed Mr Norris would now have a difficulty receiving backing for his nomination from Oireachtas members, and councillors in particular.
Support for the senator's nomination in the election race was placed in doubt as he claimed there was an attempt to "sabotage" his bid. But Mr Norris admitted the negative publicity had damaged his prospects. The senator passionately refuted claims he had said he was in favour of incest and paedophilia in a magazine interview a decade ago.
He said these were the "greatest insults" that could be made against any man. "I never endorsed paedophilia, I never endorsed incest," he said.
As an Independent, Mr Norris is reliant on the one-off support of politicians who believe he should be a candidate.
The senator needs a nomination from 20 TDs and senators or the backing of four city and county councils to get on the election ticket. He has the support of a number of Independent TDs and a commitment from one local authority.
After going to ground for almost 24 hours when the controversy over the 'Magill' magazine article from January 2002 re-emerged, Mr Norris broke his silence to defend himself on RTE's 'Today with Pat Kenny' radio show yesterday.
But a fellow senator said there would now be reluctance to endorse Mr Norris's candidacy. And a TD said politicians would now be looking to see how the controversy played with the public.
"He did reasonably okay this morning but he's still damaged. He's definitely taken a hit but I don't know yet how it's going to play out," the deputy said.
Mr Norris said the resurrection of the interview was "an attempt to sabotage my campaign".
"I am devastated for my supporters and I want them to know what kind of person I am," he said.
The senator said he abhorred and condemned the abuse of children. And he said he was going on with his campaign in the wake of the controversy arising from the 'Magill' interview with restaurant critic Helen Lucy Burke.
"I was foolish to engage in an academic discussion about ancient Greece with a restaurant critic," he said.
Mr Norris's original comments in 2002 were: "I haven't the slightest interest in children, or in people who are considerably younger than me.
"I cannot understand how anybody could find children of either sex in the slightest bit attractive sexually. . . but in terms of classic paedophilia, as practised by the Greeks, for example, where it is an older man introducing a younger man to adult life, there can be something said for it. Now, again, this is not something that appeals to me.
"Although when I was younger I would have greatly relished the prospect of an older, attractive, mature man taking me under his wing, lovingly introducing me to sexual realities, treating me with affection, teaching me about life."
Meanwhile, the journalist at the centre of the debacle last night said she spoke out to prevent Ireland from becoming the "disgust of Europe".
Ms Burke said she did not feel Mr Norris was a suitable candidate. "Anyone who endorses sex between parents and children is not a suitable person for the presidency. We would be the laughing stock and the disgust of Europe," she said.
Ms Burke, who said she had supported Mr Norris during his gay rights campaign and had even made a financial contribution to it, said there was no "malice behind her intentions" which she knew would be greeted with "uproar".