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Eamon Keane: It is time for Norris to say final goodbye to his presidential dream

It is time to say goodbye -- for his own sake. Senator David Norris needs to consider letting go of running for the presidency of Ireland. Letting go and getting on with the rest of his life. Letting go before every part of that life is destroyed.

The senator is now in a far bigger battle than that race. Like it or not, he is battling for his personal reputation.

Independent TD Finian McGrath has withdrawn support as Norris's political organiser, and Independent TDs John Halligan and Thomas Pringle have withdrawn support for his nomination. Key members of his team have resigned.


Barely a third of his Oireachtas supporters came out in his favour. I find it hard to see him getting the 20 votes necessary to be nominated. Given that it is unlikely he will, why then stay in and subject yourself to more pain?

And does Norris truly believe he can handle whatever else is coming down the line?

Like Fergus Finlay, I defended Norris and called for him to be allowed to run. Why? Because I don't like to see anyone bullied out of a race. The Mob were at work. So it is with genuine reluctance that I would ask anyone to give in to the bully boys.

But the drip feed won't stop here. The stress and strain of this would bury most normal individuals.

Let's be clear. Norris is not the first TD to appeal for clemency for a convicted offender. Labour TD Kathleen Lynch wrote a letter on behalf of a double rapist. She is now a minister.

Why wasn't there the same pressure on her to stand down as TD? Her action was inadvisable and so insensitive to the victim. But she was to let run for office. And rightly so. Lynch is a good, hardworking politician who screwed up.

Equally Norris, who was wrong to use Oireachtas notepaper, is not a bad person because of this act. Remember he did not try to interfere with the police or the judge in question. Some have been less restrained.

The real issue here goes back to the attempt to link Norris with pederasts. Context, as Eoghan Harris said yesterday, is everything.

In an age of heightened awareness about child protection, any suggestion of being soft or ambiguous on this issue is fatal. By writing a letter for someone he loved who was convicted of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy, Norris left himself open to attack.


So the net of innuendo slowly strangles Norris's campaign. The subtext is that he somehow approves of what his former partner did. This is without foundation but Norris needed to nail that and fast. He didn't.

Like the Helen Lucey-Burke story, the senator and his team were caught in a world that moved far quicker than they did.

You can argue that he should stay in the race and try to let the Irish people decide. There is merit in this. Democracy, not 14-year-old letters, should decide who our next president is. But politics doesn't work like that. Realpolitik will decide this presidential election, not noble intentions.

Norris was naive, but did he also let his ego take over? By that, I mean there are times in life when you have to listen, when you have to accept that your judgment about something may not be right. I don't know what advice he got, but it was either wrong or else he ignored it. And that is the fatal flaw.

He might think that a 14-year-old letter shouldn't be of political consequence, but a good advisor would have told him it was.

So Senator Norris needs to step back. Look at what is at stake here and listen to someone he really trusts. And then make the decision that is right for him. Hold a press conference and be up front with the Irish people. Whatever the decision is, I hope for his sake that he makes the right call.