Saturday 20 January 2018

Norris on song in capital, even taking a lesson from Mrs Palin

David Norris with Ellen Mc Cormack and Francis Leonard while canvassing on Meath Street in Dublin yesterday.
David Norris with Ellen Mc Cormack and Francis Leonard while canvassing on Meath Street in Dublin yesterday.

DAVID Norris is an unlikely disciple of Sarah Palin. Politically, the defiantly liberal Trinity senator has nothing in common with the arch-conservative former governor of Alaska.

Nevertheless, Norris's supporters might be alarmed to discover that he's not beyond resorting to one of the cruder tricks in the Mama Grizzly playbook.

Palin became an international laughing stock when she promoted her foreign affairs expertise on the grounds that she could "see Russia from my house".

In an effort to ingratiate himself with Dubliners who would not be his natural constituents, Norris adopts a similar ruse.

"I can see The Liberties from my roof," he declared on several occasions yesterday as he shopped for votes amid the indoor and streetside markets of Meath Street in Dublin's south inner city.

Norris's roof garden appears to be the crowning glory of his home, a Georgian house on North Great George's Street.

While making his way through the dizzyingly abundant stalls of The Liberty Market, he made several purchases (slippers, two bars of soap, a giant box of teabags), but lavished most attention on his choice of three pot plants.

"They'll take pride of place on my roof," he explained.

Later, however, he made an admission that removed some of the gloss from his claim to keep a special watch over The Liberties.

"I can actually see all of Dublin from my roof," he said.

Eamon de Valera could tell what the Irish people were thinking by looking into his heart; when Norris wants to know what's happening in the capital, he simply hits the roof.

Norris is an ebullient stump campaigner, and elicited an overwhelmingly warm response from the vast majority of the people he encountered during his 90-minute walkabout. Since his comeback, Norris has appeared tetchy and defensive in media interviews but, when not troubled by hard questions, he relaxes into something approaching his former self.

Even the relentless boasting, which comes across so badly on TV, seems less irritating when leavened by his easy rapport with the old dears and auld fellas who evidently form the bulk of his fan club.

Though he has scorned the backslapping politics traditionally associated with Fianna Failers, Norris is actually a dab hand at the craft. He kisses grannies, coochie coos with toddlers and happily poses for hokey photo-ops.

Most electioneering politicians take the phrase 'small-talk' all too literally. They speak in minuscule sound bites about a limited number of 'safe' subjects (primarily the weather and football). Norris, by contrast, can extemporise chitchat on an impressively broad variety of topics: food, history, books, TV, architecture, Dublin in the rare auld times.

But surprisingly he appears at his stuffiest when conversing with young people.

A twentysomething man with a Mohican haircut bounded across the street to shake hands with Norris. The candidate wondered what kind of music he likes, and was informed that he has wide tastes.

"You may be interested to know that Jedward are appearing tonight on 'The Late Late' alongside the presidential candidates," said Norris, overestimating the limitations of the term 'wide'.

The Mohawk-wearer scowled. "I'd rather listen to you than them," he said.

Norris missed the subtle admonition but was happy to accept the compliment.

"There's a vote of confidence from the young!" he bellowed.

Nobody Norris met raised the subjects of clemency letters or the age of consent.

Only one individual within my earshot remonstrated with him -- a middle-aged loner who shouted a few obscenities before moving off.

The most substantive aspect of the walkabout was a visit to a community advocacy centre.

He expressed mild unease when he discovered that one of the female committee members was making tea for their honoured guest.

"I hope there's no sexism here," he tut-tutted.

He then launched into a detailed account of the numerous ways in which he has led by example throughout his life. "I've never asked anyone to do anything I wouldn't do myself," he proclaimed.

Norris clearly relishes the view from his beloved roof garden; it would be helpful, however, if he didn't so vigorously convey the impression that he has a habit of looking down on everybody else.

Irish Independent

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