Sunday 25 August 2019

Gay Byrne will replace Norris as our 'messiah'

with Gavin Duffy

AS SENATOR Norris's presidential campaign imploded last week, some said it was because Ireland wasn't ready for a gay president. But it appears we are ready for President Gay. I will tell you what I know about Gay Byrne's candidacy in a moment.

In this column back in mid-June, I wrote that David Norris was 'politically a dead man walking'. I declared he wouldn't even get a nomination. I was so forthright in my views that I received a few letters of complaint attacking me for being homophobic. Some went as far as to suggest I was undermining David Norris, the then front runner, to promote my Dragons' Den colleague Seán Gallagher. Poppycock on both counts.

The truth is I would warmly welcome a gay President. However, I believed David Norris did not have the good, sound judgement that is required for someone who is to be President.

For example, you have to ask why did so many of the key members of his campaign team resign? They did because Senator Norris told them there was nothing in his past that would cause further controversy and negativity for his presidential prospects. Now he either told them a lie or completely forgot that the person who he says was the love of his life, Ezra Nawi, was convicted of statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy back in 1997. I believe David when he says he forgot. In doing so he demonstrated again that he has very poor judgement.

Now I ask you this. Let's say you were married a second time. Would you ever forget that your first partner was convicted of raping a 15-year-old? Imagine you were madly in love with a person? You had lived with that person. That person was then charged and convicted of statutory rape? You then got very involved in the court case? If then 14 years later you were running for President and after a controversy about the age of consent between men and teenage boys your campaign team asked you was there anything else they should know about? Wouldn't it be unbelievable to have forgotten about such momentous events?

But David said to his trusted colleagues there was nothing in his past to worry about. He gave them files going back 10 years but somehow he forgot to tell his team that his ex-partner, the man he shared his life with, was convicted and jailed for statutory rape of a minor.

David Norris is a media darling. He is loved and supported by so many journalists. But all of his friends in all the media couldn't put this one back together again.

GAY WILL RUN As David Norris pulls out, I can report that Gay Byrne is about to step in. Gay will declare in two weeks, saying he has bowed to irresistible, mounting pressure from all quarters to run as an Independent candidate. Sorry, I can't reveal the source, but I am telling you to place your bets now he will be in the race for the Áras come September.

No doubt Gay will start out topping all the opinion polls. Why? Because our country is in such an economic mess we all want to feel good about ourselves and so we are expecting a lot of this Presidential campaign. We want a messiah. We want more than ever someone who is really special in the Park. That is why initially Senator Norris was heading the polls and Gay Byrne will now assume that mantle. The Presidential campaign is really warming up.


The kids will soon be back at school. Many parents face great difficulty paying for school uniforms, sports and gym gear, shoes and trainers and, of course, the perennial complaint, the high cost of school books. Last week, Barnardos, the children's charity, called on school book publishers to do away with workbooks. Their concern was that these workbooks have to purchased new each year because the student fills them in so they can't be passed onto a younger brother or sister.

But a teacher I know said it would be mad to do away with workbooks. This teacher pointed out with the state of the Irish economy, and despite her teachers' union's best efforts, the pupil-teacher ratio is going to go up. Without these workbooks, the teacher would waste a lot of time writing questions and homework on the blackboard, as they used to do in our day. The teacher pointed out that today's classroom may have many immigrant children and English may not be their first language. So coping with all that is difficult enough. If the Department of Education were to do away with workbooks the standard of teaching and the setting and correction of homework would drop dramatically.

Our education is supposed to be free but for parents coping with pay reductions and higher mortgage payments these few weeks can be a real financial crisis. The St Vincent de Paul says it has to give €6m each year to families, helping them with the cost of going back to school. There is a real problem here but doing away with workbooks should not be part of the solution. The workbooks have brought productivity and efficiency to the classroom. Surely it should be possible for the school to hold a PDF, that is an electronic copy of the workbook, and print off the question sheets as they are needed by the students for each subject. Technology could play a big part in reducing the costs of school books, which are about €50 each year for a primary students and €130 each year for a secondary student.