Wednesday, August 3, 2011

David Norris bows out, my take !

David Norris waves goodbye to his supporters outside his house yesterday after announcing his withdrawal from the Presidential race.

Senator David Norris has pulled out of the Irish Presidential election. The scandal which caused the eccentric politician to bow out is like something from a fictitious political novel. It is a scandal that involves, love, sex, crime, passion and Israeli conspiracies. There is also a personal connection to the scandal because regular commenter on Gubu World, John Connolly, aka blogger thesystemworks played a central role in the scandal. For my non Irish readers, allow me to summarise the controversy.

Senator David Norris (67) is one of Ireland's few openly gay politicians. Last month he announced his candidate for the Presidency of Ireland, an important even if largely ceremonial position. A few days into his campaign interviews emerged from over a decade ago when he appeared to claim that teenage boys having sex with older men could be acceptable under certain circumstances. The revelation damaged his campaign but he stood his ground arguing that the interviewer had manipulated his words. It seemed to blow over. However, on the 24th of July last, John Connolly posted on his blog a story which proved fatal to the Norris for President campaign. It involved Norris' former partner, an Israeli man named Ezra Nawi who was convicted in 1992 by an Israeli court of having sex with an underage teenage Palestinian boy. Below is an extract from John's post.

In light of the age of consent controversy it would be highly appropriate to bring up facts about his former long-time romantic partner, the Israeli Communist Ezra Nawi. Nawi is a plumber by profession but also a political agitator. Few are aware that Nawi was convicted of sodomizing an underage Palestinian Arab boy in 1992, as well as the illegal use of a firearm, growing narcotics and transporting Palestinian Arab workers who did not possess the proper permits into Israel. Nawi was given light sentences so as to not give him the status of a martyr among Israeli Anarchists and Communists. David Norris was certainly aware of Nawi’s history of intercourse with underage boys while they were a couple. Why has this been ignored in the public debates?

It got worse for Norris when it emerged that he had at the time written a letter to the Israeli court appealing for leniency for his former lover. It proved too much for some of his key supporters and they began to withdraw their support. As it became clear that Norris would not get the support of the 20 members required from the Oireachtas (houses of parliament) to get his name on the ballot paper, David Norris withdrew from the campaign. Then began the real madness. Who leaked the story? Was it the Labour Party whose candidate Michael D Higgins is a rival of Norris or could it even have been the Israelis who did not want Norris, a man with a history of criticising Israeli actions, to be the next President of Ireland. The only man who really knows the answer is John.

Who is the source ?
The Israeli Government. My goodness. This is so daft I don't know where to start. The Israelis have a lot on their plate right now. There is the Arab Srping, a nuclear Iran, peace negotiation with the Palestinian authorities and neighbours to the North (Hezbollah) and South (Hamas) who are in a fight to the death with the Jewish state. Does anyone really believe they give monkey's arse about the Irish Presidential election. Well some do, most are the usual Israel bashers who are obsessed with Israeli conspiracies but some more respected figures like Independent TD (MP) Finian McGrath have actually called for an investigation into the role of the Israeli Embassy in the breaking of the story. Astonishing, no wait, embarrassing.

The Labour Party. No, Michael D Higgins is too sweet for that. Presidential elections are dirty but in Ireland, not that dirty and in any event I don't believe anybody in the Higgins campaign would have the ingenuity to do something so crafty. John has however indicated that the source of his story has previous connections with the Labour Party which "unnerved" him a bit. This has sent the speculation machine into overdrive but lets remember people, the crime of Ezra Nawi was a documented crime as was Mr Norris' relationship with him. All it took was for somebody in Ireland, with Israeli connections (who John obviously knows) to join the dots and realise a major scandal was there to be broken. If they hadn't, somebody else would have.

David Norris and the Presidency
I have always liked David Norris. I have met him a couple of times and found his personality very appealing. He was not my candidate but I think it is a shame he has left the race as it will most certainly be a less exciting campaign. He used bad judgement regarding the appeal for Mr Nawi but he remains an honorable man in my view and a guy I would like to have at my fantasy dinner party (along with John F Kennedy and Jack Charlton).

Norris has a history of criticising Israeli actions in Palestine. As always I distinguish between those who constantly and out of all proportion bash Israel and those who do so in an objective manner, even if I disagree. Norris fell into the latter category in my view. In any event, the Irish President's views on Israel are of no importance to me, as long as it is not anti semetic. I want a President who has a strong grasp of the Irish constitution and someone who will protect Irish democracy. I want a President who can inspire Irish people, the nation and who will defend and speak up for the Irish police and Armed Forces in the event they are not properly protected by the government. That it turns out was not David Norris. But I salute him.

John Connolly
John Connolly has been subjected to some outrageous abuse since he broke this story last week. John was perfectly entitled to break this story. It was a legitimate story. If he didn't someone else would have. David Norris' Presidency was only sabotaged by himself when he carelessly wrote a letter defending his former parters pedophile actions. Presidential elections are particularly tough because it is more about the individual. If Norris had have done this in any other country the reaction would have been as bad if not worse. This was neither smear nor slander. It was the rough and tumble of political life. Well done John ! You have proved how powerful the blog can be in Irish politics.


The System Works said...

Good summary.

Of course, it is now clear Norris had the papers in his own records and released them when the story gained momentum.

There has been a lot of exaggeration and manipulation in the media reporting, especially with the whole 'Labour was the source' theory. You have to be so careful with these people!

Rob Harris said...

Nice summary. One point I would disagree on is how reasonable his criticism of Israel was. He has tended to croach criticism in careful terms and was careful not to sound too supportive of Hamas but other than that there is little contrast between his stance and the average fairly rabit pro-Palestinian campaigner IMO. It might be revealing to contrast his mildly critical stance of Hamas with his attacks on the Church. I saw a comment by a poster on the Guardian site who inferred Norris said he could understand anti-Semitism because of Israeli actions in Gaza but I don't know if that is true as I couldn't find a link on google sdo may have picked it up wrong. He has ranted and raved about Israel a lot though. I remember he advocated boycott because Israel killed Yassin (founder of Hamas) because he was in a wheelchair! Persumably he would also think the US should be condemned and boycotted because they assassinated Osama! He called Fergal Quinn a disgrace and walked out of the Seannad simply because Quinn said Israel should be allowed inspect the flotillas!

Ted Leddy said...


The Irish media would love it if "labour was the source". It would make it the dirtiest trick in Irish politics since Charlie Haughey spread a rumour that President Hillary was having an affair. He did this to force him to resign so that Brian Lenihan Snr, who was a threat to Haughey, would step into the President's role and be out of Haughey's way.

Mind you, the media would enjoy themselves as well if it turned out the Israelis were the source.

Ted Leddy said...


Good points. I would obviously disagree with much he has to say. But for me, a persons character and integrity does not come down to how they view the Israeli Palestnian situation.

I admit though it can be difficult to tell the difference between a hater and a legitimate critic. For me the most telling sign is a two state solution. Anybody still trying to argue that Israel and Palestine should be incorporated into a one state is almost certainly a fanatic and probably a bigot. However a person who criticses Israeli actions while defending their right to a secure state, as Norris does, deserves not to be put into the looney category.

Rob Harris said...

Hi Ted,

“…for me, a persons character and integrity does not come down to how they view the Israeli Palestnian situation.”
Absolutely. The reality is that most Irish politicians are critical of Israel, a few of whom I otherwise like. The thing is though that people like Norris aren’t suited for a largely ceremonial, diplomatic role if they are willing to demand that Bush be arrested upon his visit to Ireland, or refer to Gaza as an open air concentration camp as he did in 2009. Bruce Arnold said something like that in an article yesterday in the Belfast Telegraph.

I take your point on the two-state solution although one has to qualify what one means by that because some pro-Palers say they support it but still demand a right to return and/or the abolition of Israel as a Jewish state which they regard as “Apartheid”. Norris seems to support the BDS movement which seeks to effectively do that so I don’t know what his true stance is. For me he really crossed the line into bigotry when he demanded last year that Israel stop cynically exploiting the Holocaust in the Seannad. At the moment I’m trying to write an article on his conduct.

Anonymous said...

Good bloody riddence, we don't want his sort tarnishing the political landscape of Ireland.

Ted Leddy said...


I have use this analogy a few times. Being an anti Semite is a lot like being a dirty footballer. You can commit a deliberate foul and make it look entirely innocent. When two players jump for a ball and one elbows the other, only he knows if he actually meant it. Not even the referee can tell. The same I believe is true of many who are not openly anti semetic but have hostile feelings toward Jews. It's almost impossible to tell for sure.

Rob Harris said...

Interesting observation Ted. Just to add that I'm not saying he's an anti-Semite. It is usually hard to tell as you say but if I was to put a bet on it I would probably say no he isn't. I feel though his criticism of Israel crosses a line into bigotry with the hysterical criticism and outright lies, e.g. he actually claimed that the Hamas rockets had almost stopped before Israel went into Gaza in Dec 2008!

BTW I would like to say a thanks to John/System Works. He has really done the country a service. Imagine the embarassment if this stuff came out after taking office!