David Quinn: Why is Norris now credible when his view on pederasty is unchanged?
Published 30/09/2011 | 05:00
When David Norris withdrew from the presidential race in early August, 'The Irish Times' announced that he had "no other credible option" but to do so.
My question is this; what material fact has changed since then that suddenly makes him a credible candidate again? The answer is nothing has changed.
So why is he now a candidate in the election and why didn't 'The Irish Times', among others, loudly oppose his re-entry into the campaign given their earlier position?
When Senator Norris withdrew from the race in August it was because several of his campaign staff had resigned in protest over his letters pleading on behalf of his former partner Ezra Nawi, who was guilty of statutory rape.
In fact, 'The Sunday Times' reported a few days later that the letters David Norris released to the media were not the ones that really made his staff resign. 'The Sunday Times' said there were other letters, including one that further expanded on his views regarding underage sex, that really made them quit.
But if some of his own campaign staff believed he was not a suitable person to be president, why is it that one voter in five seems to think otherwise?
I think there are two reasons for this. The first is that some of those supporters still don't know about his views on such issues as the age of consent and pederasty -- and that's leaving aside those letters -- while another set see him as a liberal talisman who can do no wrong.
It is a sure bet that only a tiny fraction of his supporters have ever actually read the 'Magill' interview of nine years ago in which he recommended to the nation pederasty as practised in Ancient Greece, or 'The Daily Mail' interview of only one year ago in which he make similar comments.
How many know that on at least three separate occasions he has expressed his opposition to an age of consent, namely in the 'Magill' interview, 'The Daily Mail' interview and in the Seanad in 2001?
In the Seanad, when commenting on the 2000 Sex Offenders Bill, he said: "I am against the idea of arbitrary age considerations and in favour of a principle of consent."
Last year journalist Jason O'Toole for 'The Daily Mail' asked him if he believed in an age of consent and he replied: "No, I wouldn't believe in that. I believe in a principle of consent." What in the world does he even mean by "a principle of consent"?
He is now saying it should be up to the courts to decide when someone has had inappropriate sexual relations with someone else. Or at least I think that's what he's saying.
But if that is what he meant -- and it's still a dreadful idea -- then how does he explain the fact that he has recommended to us pederasty as practised in Ancient Greece?
On this score he told 'Magill': "But in terms of classic paedophilia, as practised by the Greeks for example, where it is an older man introducing a younger man or boy to adult life, I think that there can be something to be said for it."
He repeated similar views to Jason O'Toole last year.
He has said since then that he was trying to have an "academic" discussion on the issue. But if we had had such a discussion we'd have discovered that pederasty in Ancient Greece was inherently exploitative. It could hardly be anything else, which is precisely why we need an age of consent.
Remember also how shocked most of us were in 2008 when we watched the documentary 'Fairytale of Kathmandu' and saw poet Cathal O Searcaigh, a middle-aged man, using his relative power and wealth to have sex with much younger, poorer men and we saw how deeply exploitative that was?
But how many of us can recall that David Norris defended Cathal O Searcaigh on that occasion and compared him to Oscar Wilde?
What is deeply ironic is that many of Norris's strongest supporters are also the harshest critics of the church and the number one weapon they use to attack the church is the child abuse issue.
David Norris is obviously not to be remotely compared with a cleric who abused a minor or with a bishop who did not report that abuse to the gardai.
But if his supporters are so concerned about child protection how can they so easily brush aside their candidate's opinions on pederasty, the age of consent or those Nawi letters?
We know how merciless they would have been had a Bishop Norris written similar letters.
The fact is that David Norris's most ardent supporters need to take a much harder look at his views on pederasty, the age of consent, the Ezra Nawi letters and Cathal O Searcaigh's exploits in Nepal before they give him that number one vote.