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Norris vows to learn from 'painful' episode as stars play support role

Award-winning movie stars joined the welcome for a Presidential candidate when he arrived to do celebrity jury service in Dublin yesterday.

Two of his fellow jurists, Brenda Fricker and Stephen Rea, greeted David Norris, the star of the biggest political drama in town.

Mr Norris, who intends to step up his campaign for the Aras over the next two weeks, has been in the headlines following reported comments in a 10-year-old interview -- that he says were taken out of context -- about sexual activity between older and younger men and boys.

Mr Norris joined the actors just before noon at an office in Dublin's Smithfield to take his place on the jury for the Irish Council for Civil Liberties Human Rights Film Awards.

It wasn't clear if Rea was thinking about Mr Norris's problems when he spoke passionately about the awards.

"As artists, we have the chance to communicate important messages in a unique way and to inspire those around us to open their eyes to the struggles for human rights and equality that occur daily at home and abroad."

The movie stars were playing a supporting role to a man they clearly like and admire and who has been suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune on the campaign trail.

After two days of defending his honour, Mr Norris was slightly bloodied but unbowed and made a word play on an old political cliche about heat and kitchens.

"If you are in the kitchen stay in it -- but I found myself in a celebrity kitchen," he said, before adding a topical joke. "It was my 'come dine with me' experience."

The actors, gracious and sympathetic, moved aside and let Mr Norris take care of his campaign business before he joined them. He was clearly hurting from the devastating personal attack, but insisted that no one should think any less of Helen Lucy Burke, the journalist who led the charge.

Mr Norris said he had the support of 10 members of the Oireachtas (he needs 20 to secure a nomination) although he said it was up to them to identify themselves.

"I heard Luke 'Ming' Flanagan say he was sticking by me on the radio this morning," he said.

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In a pointed display of solidarity, the Independent TD from Roscommon said on the Newstalk breakfast show that he wanted Mr Norris to babysit for him.

Mr Norris intends to step up his campaign and in two weeks' time he will have a Super Monday when he will ask councils in Wicklow, Carlow and Wexford to support his nomination.

Yet the steam is still rising from the reported comments in the 10-year-old interview.

Mr Norris was asked to address the worries of supporters who felt he was too quick to comment on controversial matters -- a trait that could cause a crisis for a President.

"I will be very judicious, particularly from now on," he said. "I learned that from painful experience."


He continued: "Perhaps I didn't learn quite enough so I have to be very careful and judicious. I can assure you that incident will never be repeated, never be repeated. I am not a slow learner."

Meanwhile, the Labour Party decided yesterday to allow its councillors free rein in deciding to nominate Presidential election candidates.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore's decision follows a similar move by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.

The decision is a boost for the various Independent candidates seeking a nomination from councils to get them on to the presidential election ticket.

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