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Andrew Lynch: His rivals always knew he would push the self-destruct button

David Norris will never be President of Ireland. After the mass exodus from his campaign over the weekend, it is now clear that the flamboyant Senator's reputation has become utterly toxic.

On a personal level, he should be able to bounce back from this scandal -- but his terrible error of judgment in writing that letter to an Israeli court will haunt him for the rest of his life.

Idle speculation about under-age sex in Ancient Greece is one thing. Actively helping a man convicted of statutory rape in modern-day Israel is on a completely different scale.



Tricks

Nobody in their right mind thinks that Norris is a supporter of paedophilia -- but when even your closest supporters are telling you this is one controversy too many, it's time to leave the battlefield with as much dignity as you can muster.

It is difficult not to feel sympathy for Norris today. He clearly wrote that letter for the best of motives, desperately trying to save the man he has described as the love of his life. He is not exactly the first politician to think he could influence a court's decision -- and there is plenty of reason to suspect that he is the victim of a dirty tricks campaign.

Even so, Norris has been caught bang to rights. He failed to play straight with his own campaign team, which is why so many of them feel personally betrayed. He has also let down the TDs and Senators who put their necks on the line for him and are now scurrying away like furry rodents from a leaky vessel. Norris's campaign has been flawed from the start. He thought he could assume the presidency like a modern-day emperor, ignoring the other candidates and relying on his celebrity profile to put him in the Aras. Even some of his closest colleagues admit that they were disturbed by his arrogant attitude and refusal to learn the nuts and bolts of political campaigning.



Bitching

To his credit, Norris said from the outset that he didn't want to be pigeonholed as 'the gay candidate'. After the latest revelations, however, any presidential campaign with his involvement would be dominated by sexual issues. That is exactly the last thing this country needs -- which means that when we finally go to the polls on October 28, David Norris's name will not be on the ballot paper.

In an ideal world, of course, the final judgment should be left to the Irish people. However, there is no point in bitching about the rules halfway through the game. Norris seemed to think that his fellow Oireachtas members would feel honoured to sign his nomination papers, but in fact he was struggling to get the 20 names he needed even before the roof caved in over the weekend.

Despite Norris's healthy opinion poll ratings, his rivals were always quietly confident that he would self-destruct when the real battle got under way. Now it has happened sooner than anyone expected. The immediate winner must be Michael D Higgins, who should hoover up the Senator's radical left-wing vote and establish himself as the new frontrunner when the next polls are published.

David Norris is a flawed, eccentric, essentially decent man who was never cut out to be president. When he finally bows to reality and pulls the plug on his campaign, he may even start to realise this himself.


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