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After Norris… August 3, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.

In some ways it’s very disappointing what has happened to the Norris candidacy and in part that’s because it’s difficult to believe that it was doomed from the off. Yes, there were hostages to fortune in the past, but that alone doesn’t seem to me sufficient to explain what happened and how it happened. And that’s not to deny that there were significant problematic aspects of those issues in their own right – he certainly was guilty of a serious lapse in understanding and empathy at the time, albeit one which personal pressures might explain. But what compounded that was what happened when he ran for President.

It seems to me, that rather than engaging those hostages to fortune head-on a more ameliorative ‘play it safe and let them emerge on their own terms approach’ was adopted, one that, unfortunately, permitted them to enter the public consciousness not at a time of the choosing of the campaign but rather at points calculated to inflict maximum damage to him.

What’s perhaps concerning is that after the first major one – the Helen Lucy Burke interview, more wasn’t done to address potential future pitfalls. If ever there was a time and an opportunity to make it clear where he stood now on various issues that was the one. But even that would have been reactive, whereas an earlier release of information, and placed within context and with voluntary apologies as distinct from those that occurred at the end of a process, would have allowed for more positive outcomes.

Indeed, I was saying to someone this weekend that it struck me that the departure of his communications people probably marked more a situation where they felt there was nothing they could do to sugar the pill of the latest revelations as much as surprise that such revelations appeared – though it may well have marked that as well.

So it’s near inexplicable that this was allowed to sit out in the ether until it was unhelpfully plucked out by… well who? The problem is that while the plucker is rather unlovable for a raft or reasons the issue was there waiting. In that sense there was a clear lack of a sense of what had to be done to safely push Norris to the starting line on the part of him and his team.

And therein is a point that demonstrates that for all the froth and some of the self-congratulatory stuff online about this being an historic moment for social media comparisons of this to the Lenihan debacle in the 1990 Presidential Election seem well wide of the mark. Sure, it’s a truism that we live in a new era of transparency as regards political activity [who would be a candidate in these circumstances when everything is now picked over, and more importantly on a functional level, can be picked over?] and granted here it’s as if there’s a greek chorus of social media added to the greek chorus of the media.

But we still aren’t in an election campaign proper yet, and consequently the stakes remain lower. And Norris appeared, at least to some of us – however much we might wish it to be otherwise, a rank outsider even [though as noted above I don’t go with the line that the failure of his candidacy was inevitable in electoral terms, putting all this aside], and this is a crucial caveat, even if he actually was nominated to stand. None of which looked certain even a week ago, though a week ago before this blew up he looked in reasonably good shape. Except, except, it is very difficult to see where he’d get the extra five TDs or Senators to support him – except, except it is possible that others might have been guilted into supporting him for ‘the good of electoral pluralism’. So, 50:50 perhaps on that score.

There’s a broader issue too, he’s not as such a man of the left, although – as I’ve also noted previously, he’s far from unprogressive on economic issues. Perhaps the best definition might be mildly left of centre. Certainly nothing for leftists to get hugely enthused about if economic issues are placed front and centre, but in a field that incorporates candidates who, even including the most avowedly leftwing of them, appear to merge across the homogenous centre to right on economic issues, at least in terms of activity he was perhaps the most left wing of the lot. Not saying much in that company, but not saying nothing at all either.

By the way, on politics.ie there’s been some stuff about how this will damage those who did support him. I’m very dubious about that. The fact he resigned when he did will probably limit collateral damage [and by the way I’m not suggesting damage to him or to them is in any sense justified]. Moreover it will be interesting to see if a sympathy vote begins to manifest itself.

There are other issues. I remember the first time his name was mentioned I was pleased but dubious that he would be in with anything like a shot, not because of any thing intrinsic to him but rather that the response from the public might not necessarily be very positive. And in that I don’t simply mean homophobia but rather a suspicion as regards the response to some of his more exuberant outbursts. having met him a number of times, as most of us who have similarly will attest, that seemed like a genuine problem.

What’s interesting is how well he reined all that in. This new Norris had a certain gravitas and ease that he managed to slip into well. Indeed to be honest I thought it suited him. It’s also heartening to see how popular a gay man could be as a potential Presidential candidate – indeed the idea that he would be topping opinion polls before nominations seemed to me to be a real step forward. Again, I don’t think this is a step backward. Sooner or later there will be a President who just happens to be a gay man as well, nor did Norris do any disservice in going forward, or in the manner of his ultimate resignation. I also wonder if it came as something of a surprise to some how well he did in the court of public opinion, an unpleasant surprise one suspects to some.

So, what’s left? A push towards Michael D. Higgins by some on the liberal and left wings, for fear of Mitchell? Perhaps, but such a push will probably be unaccompanied by a good proportion of us. And a left wing candidate of the sort many of us would like? Seems unlikely at this late stage. Throwing a name out at random you’d wonder how a Joe Higgins would do… not too badly even if he didn’t win, and you’d wonder at whether the lack of a JH like candidate will be problematic in raising the profile of the further left [I’m intrigued by rockroots suggesting that Finian McGrath looked like a man who had a Plan B – any more on that and what does that tell us about those who might have such a plan?}.

But either way for some of us this will be an incomparably drabber election and to be honest from my perspective it’s hard to feel that any other declared candidate is worth the effort of a trip to the polling place.


1. Dail Spy - August 3, 2011

Finian McGrath was having very cordial and indeed what looked like fun-filled discussions with Sam Smyth and Senator Ronan Mullen outside Leinster House yesterday, about 4pm, laughing and joking. Maybe they were discussing a new candidate to cover all bases?
McGrath backed Bertie in the past, so why not bring him back?
(BTW Does Kathleen Lynch have to resign now too, given she wrote a letter on behalf of a double-rapist who committed his crimes in this country and where there was no case of ‘statatuory’ involved? Just asking…maybe the Michael D. campaign have an opinion).


2. rockroots - August 3, 2011

Actually, the more I think about this the more annoyed I get. Sam Smyth was presenting in place of David Norris filling in for Vincent Browne last night. And there was exactly that kind of nudge, nudge, wink, wink camaraderie DailSpy mentions. Finian McGrath definitely has someone else in mind but went all coy about giving away too much. While I thought on Sunday that he just didn’t have the stomach to defend Norris (not that nominating him meant endorsing him anyway), he gives the impression now of someone who just wants to be on the winning team. I’ve lost a lot of respect for him and frankly his new protege will be somewhat tainted by association, in my eyes at least. He also thought it was quite likely there would be FF and SF(/ULA?) candidates eventually.


3. wexfordrebelalliance - August 3, 2011

That mother-plucker who plucked it, is rather unlovable because he’s such a non-chalant Breivik-sympathiser, and belongs to an online circle of friends with people who think that those massacred in Utoya were basically asking for it. You’re going to just let that slide? Really?

I don’t even _like_ Norris that much, and this burns my ass.


WorldbyStorm - August 3, 2011

You forget his neo-confederacy… which to use his words I find particularly ‘odious’. But wexfordrebelalliance, he’s not worth it, he really isn’t. Why draw any more attention to him than he deserves?


4. Jim Monaghan - August 3, 2011

On facebook, I am told that Mitchell asked for clemency for a “pro-Life” activist, convicted of a double murder. Here is the site.
Am I the only one who remembers the Stagg controversy?


5. Gay ‘The Christian’ Mitchell « An Sionnach Fionn - August 3, 2011

[…] Okay. That all sounds rather too familiar to me but you can judge for yourself. […]


6. alastair - August 3, 2011

Shouldn’t that be the ‘geek chorus of social media ‘?

I find it ironic that Norris’s achilles heel (see what I did there?) is the legacy of politically incorrect gaffs he’s got to carry. If this letter hadn’t sunk him (which it shouldn’t have), and the (to my mind, rather more serious) Cathal O Searcaigh stuff didn’t, then there was a long list of rash comments and photos just waiting to be rolled out. For someone so closely associated with liberal do-gooder-ism, he’s remarkably un-PC. But just because he leaves himself open to a drip drip witch-hunt, doesn’t mean he’s culpable in his removal from this race – his flaws shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, and he’s got the personality, energy, and (generally) the sound intentions for the strange job that is the presidency. He remains the best option we’ve been (nearly)offered so far.


crocodile - August 3, 2011

‘politically incorrect gaffs’ – the George’s st pad is plush, but fairly right on. Has he other, less progressive homes?


Joe Davis - August 3, 2011

Guess what?
That statue of the Blessed Virgin with her heel on the serpent’s head, she looks remnarkably like Dana and the poor snake resembles Norris, don’t you think?
Joe Davis


7. sonofstan - August 3, 2011

You know, I could be wrong in this, because it was a long time ago when we last elected a president, but the only candidate back then that I remember talking about inequality and deprivation, and offering any critique of the economics of the boom was Dana.

Depressingly, she might again be the only ‘non-consensus’ candidate.


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