News Fionnan Sheahan

Friday 19 September 2014

There were doubts over Norris, now they're confirmed

Fionan Sheehan

Published 17/07/2013 | 05:00

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Senator David Norris: no full apology

DAVID Norris's bravery in being so open in his battle with cancer is worthy of every support.

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The Independent senator revealed last month that he is suffering from an inoperable liver cancer, but says he has found his "happiness and laughter again".

He deserves the thoughts and prayers of anyone who has admired his campaigning work for recognition of gay people and championing the cause of minorities.

However, the recognition of his record over the years doesn't give Senator Norris carte blanche to act as he pleases in the Seanad.

He was responsible for a parliamentary low point with his base attack on Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty.

The senator clearly thought his reference to the "Regina Monologues" was amusing, but it had no place in the Upper House of parliament.

Just being flamboyant and outspoken is no excuse for dragging parliament down.

The outbursts of Senator Norris and some of his colleagues on Monday in response to Fine Gael's ratcheting up of the campaign for the abolition of the Seanad is being viewed as an exceptional incident.

The reality is, though, that any regular observers of the Seanad will testify that the behaviour of a coterie of senators is frequently indulged.

Senators are allowed to bring up whatever random issue they wish on a daily basis in a slot that is supposed to be dealing with the timetabling of debates in the Upper House and in a manner that would not be tolerated in the Dail.

The question to be asked about the Seanad's procedures this week is why were a handful of members even allowed to bring up a Fine Gael press statement?

Their contributions actually proved counterproductive to their defence of their institution.

Senator Norris's offensive remarks emerged from this ill-disciplined approach to the business of the Seanad.

His clarification yesterday merely served to compound the original offence.

The senator chose to withdraw "the thing", but there was no apology forthcoming. Worryingly, he appeared to be trying to justify his remarks.

"I don't intend to go into a lengthy linguistic explanation and try to defend what I said, which I could if it was an academic discussion," he said.

The reference to an academic argument was a throwback to some of the difficulties he got into during his presidential election campaign.

Norris chooses to bitterly portray his presidential election defeat as the result of a campaign against him.

The real reason the voters chose not to put him into Aras an Uachtarain was because of the question marks over his judgment, not his character.

The doubts over whether he knew where the line was drawn and how he would handle situations presented to him as a representative of the State lingered and caused the voters to think twice.

Nothing personal, it was just business.

And his actions this week prove the public were justified in their thinking.

Irish Independent

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