In a letter on behalf of his ex-boyfriend to the court, Norris called Nawi, an “intelligent, honest, trustworthy, good and moral person.” Norris described himself as a “strong supporter of Israel” and emphasized that he had “been widely mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in the forth coming elections for the Presidency of Ireland.” The court, which was not likely to be conversant with Irish politicians, was left to assume that jailing Nawi would alienate a world leader.
Norris urged that Nawi be given a suspended jail sentence with community service, claimed that he had probably been entrapped by the police and warned that Nawi might commit suicide in prison.
The Nawi letter had remained out of sight until the blogsphere came to the rescue in the person of John Connolly, who blogs at The System Works. Since Connolly was pro-Israel, Norris supporters cried conspiracy. Connolly was accused of being a Mossad agent. The innuendo went far enough that the Israeli embassy was forced to explicitly deny any involvement in the release of the letter.
By then Norris had become an embarrassment. He was still the same man he had been all along, but the controversy now had more bite to it. From his letter on behalf of Nawi, it was clear that he had been thinking of the presidency for over a decade. And after having come so close, he was thwarted by his own words.
There was an element of tragedy here, but not one that Norris or his supporters were capable of appreciating. Norris’ views remained acceptable so long as they were in the abstract. It was fine for him to attack Israel or speculate about ages of consent, so long as he didn’t actually put them into practice. The Nawi letter was the intersection of Norris’ anti-Israel politics and his shifting stance on pedophilia. And it did him in.
But the larger question is not Norris’ feelings on child abuse, but why so much of Ireland’s political elite was willing to back a man for a position where he would have been a national spokesman, despite his ugly views.
Norris demonized, mining the Holocaust for venom to hurl at the people who had suffered the most by it. He didn’t just disagree with the War in Iraq, instead he again deployed Nazi and Holocaust rhetoric. The base of support on his side meant that the ugliness of his views were not isolated, but represented a standard of discourse that had become the political mainstream in Ireland.
Had Norris not brought himself down, we would be reading articles shortly about the first gay president of Ireland. And Norris would have had a prominent stage to deploy his vengeful rhetoric against the victims of terrorism.
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