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Sunday 30 April 2017

Norris campaign is hit by his old comments on paedophilia

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

SENATOR David Norris' prospects of being a presidential election candidate were thrown into doubt last night as controversial comments came back to haunt him.

The Independent candidate went to ground after his Presidential campaign was dealt a blow by the return of a controversy over past comments about paedophilia.

The comments by the senator, dating back a decade, returned as he entered a crucial stage in his bid to secure a nomination for the Presidential election.

Mr Norris's original comments in 2001 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."

The resurrection of the comments pose a major challenge to Mr Norris and how he handles the fallout may determine if he gets on the Presidential ticket at all. Supporters or Mr Norris admitted to being "worried" and said he would have to "clean up" the controversy if he hoped to secure a nomination.

But Mr Norris faces a difficult task in trying to explain his original comments, with an old political rule being quoted last night: when you're explaining, you're losing.

Mr Norris helped launch a garden design competition yesterday for the forthcoming Bloom festival alongside Environment Minister Phil Hogan and rugby pundit Brent Pope before the controversy reignited yesterday. Afterwards, the senator's campaign spokesman said Mr Norris was unavailable for comment: "Not at this time."

The senator issued a statement in response to criticism of his candidacy claiming his 2001 comments about sexuality were misleading.

Misleading

"The presentation of references to sexuality in the article attributed to me were misleading in that they do not convey the context in which they were made," he said.

Notably, the senator does not claim he was misquoted.

The original controversy arose in 2001 from a magazine interview where Mr Norris said he "engaged an academic discussion about classical Greece and sexual activity in a historical context".

"It was a hypothetical, intellectual conversation which should not have been seen as a considered representation of my views on some of the issues discussed over dinner," he said in the statement.

"People should judge me on my record and actions as a public servant, over the last 35 years and on the causes and campaigns, for which I have fought, and not on an academic conversation with a journalist over dinner. I did not ever and would not approve of the finished article as it appeared," he said.

However, Mr Norris's reluctance yesterday to make a public comment on the affair was viewed as an indication the controversy has damaged his campaign.

The senator is seeking a nomination from 20 TDs and senators or the backing of four city and county councils.

In a fortnight's time, he will address three councils on one day, which he has described as 'Super Monday'.

Irish Independent

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