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Let Norris run -- for the nation's sake

Justice delayed is justice denied. The longer Enda Kenny and Fine Gael try to keep David Norris out of the presidential election, the worse is their crime. David Norris is the people's choice, according to the latest Irish Times poll. In fact, he has consistently headed every other poll over the last year. To deny him the opportunity to run is to deny democracy.

Remember how you didn't get to vote on the bank bailout? You had no say in our loss of sovereignty. Remember when you voted for the Nice Treaty how they made you vote again? You kept voting until they got the result they wanted. Now you may not even get the chance to vote for the President you want. No, we're not in some South American tin-pot country, this is good old Ireland.

An election is our chance to be real citizens, if only for a day. We know that the rest of the time we are mere subjects of European rule. The EU/IMF decide how much we spend, tax, drink, eat and God knows what else. The ability to choose our President is one of the few independent actions we have left.

Yet it has been said that Kenny has instructed FG councillors to block the Norris nomination. We had the sad debacle in Galway where the casting vote of a FG councillor ensured the Senator was not even allowed address councillors. Kenny promised us an end to tribal politics, a new era and all that. You judge by actions so what exactly is Kenny telling us ?

You could argue that the Norris witch-hunt has played a part in all this, ensuring that the county councils would reject him anyway. It certainly was a handy flag of convenience to hide behind -- those who don't want Norris to run let others do the dirty work. Yet Norris's high poll rating shows that Irish people have seen through that for what it is.

I made the point in the Sunday Independent that Norris was attacked while the real dangers to children lay elsewhere. Better to demonise the 'gay' than look at how mainstream society treats children. Just look at the Cloyne Report or HSE figures for children who died in State care.

As we seek to make a break from the dark, repressed Ireland highlighted in Cloyne, there is an immense opportunity for Kenny. The FG leader deserves great credit for his Dail speech. I sense, like you and me, he was genuinely horrified by what he had heard. However, Kenny can demonstrate that we are truly breaking with that abusive past by letting a progressive liberal man have his chance to run for President.

Who is the last man the bishops or indeed the Vatican would want to be President? Who campaigned for civil and gay rights? Who took on the bishops when they had the power? So Enda, help us move us out of the Dark Ages and let Norris at least run for President. Tell your councillors that we are a progressive nation not just in word but in deed. Tell people that the sign of a healthy independent State is its ability to tolerate and embrace difference.

For Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, it is a great chance to show his party has moved on, too. His smartest move would be to come out and back Norris. It would be a political masterstroke.

There is a deeper, though less obvious, danger in all of this. We have emerged from one of the most destructive periods of governance in the history of this State. We have watched the elites of bankers, politician and clergy get away with it. Because of this lack of accountability there is a sense among people of 'but sure, what can we do'.

That fatalism and resignation is the worst enemy of democracy. It enabled corruption and abuse to flourish in this country for years. If Norris is not given the chance to run, what does it tell you and me? That the Old Order remains, that you can't beat the might of the big party machines. So we might as well give up and fall into the 'least worst' option. That means picking one of the two big-party candidates. I mean no disrespect to any other candidate, but this is exactly what the Old Order is counting on.

In perpetuating that process, democracy is further corroded. And for Kenny, who so brightly signalled a new order with the Catholic church this week, this undermines the notion that we are somehow leaving the dark past behind.

So take a risk, Enda. Drive a stake through our ugly past and let the Senator run.

Living, Page 9

Sunday Independent