While it certainly makes the contest far more interesting, I must admit my considerable surprise at the news that Senator David Norris is, according the Sunday Independent, soon to announce that he is re-entering the nomination fight for the Presidential election.
(I will note that the following is mostly based upon the supposition that Norris is re-entering the race because he truly believes that he can get nominated. I don’t think Norris would be stupid enough to go through this all again if he didn’t think he had a shot. Of course, it’s very possible that he might not be able to get the numbers he needs. News today indicates he will have difficulty gaining nomination votes from parties.)
I certainly considered Norris to be done. In fact, I went so far as to dismiss those who were clamouring for his return. I was annoyed at the presumption of people who seemed to think that someone had put a gun to the Senator’s head and made him quit.
But, here he is again.
Of course, I am a suspicious individual and this story reeks of an electoral ploy. Norris disappears for nearly a month, then makes a heroic return, painting himself as the victim of an overzealous media. He has an appearance booked on “The Late Late Show” on Friday. If I was more cynical, I would think that Norris perhaps always planned to return, his temporary exile a way to deflect the criticism and scandal he has suffered. But, then again. Norris never struck me as that cunning. It’s very possible he simply changed his mind.
The nomination fight will be interesting, if he does choose to re-enter. The council option is out, so it has to be 20 members of the Oireachtas. Between committed Independents, the ULA and such, he’ll have somewhere between 10-15. Where are the others coming from? Fine Gael and Labour have their guy. Sinn Fein are moving for their own candidate, and wouldn’t nominate someone like Norris.
Fianna Fail? Certainly, a few of them might decide to give him the thumbs up, but one wonders whether being in any way an FF nominated candidate might not be the kiss of death. Aide from everything else, Norris would have to deal with an unpopular association with one of the most disliked parties in Europe.
(As an aside, I find the numerous TDs and petition signers whining about how “the Irish people should get to decide about Norris!” hilarious. Where were they when Norris was getting elected to the Seanad on the back of a Trinity college graduate electorate for several terms? I missed that internet petition, clearly. Moreover, why is Norris getting such special treatment? What about the litany of other candidates who couldn’t get the 20 members of the Oireachtas or four county councils? Where’s their outpouring of support? Why isn’t Dana getting 6’000 signatures? Shouldn’t the Irish people get to decide on her too?)
Let’s talk about an election where Norris does run.
In my opinion, Norris can’t win the election, for several reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, his entry, and the entry of a Sinn Fein candidate, is going to split the left vote three ways, maybe even more if some gravitate to Mary Davis. Secondly, Norris’ absence for the last month has allowed Higgins and others to gain a lead in campaigning, reflected in polls. Thirdly, Norris is bereft of money, having returned all previous donations when he did quit.
Then, their is the real negatives, which is the stories. Aside from the fact that the whole “defended a statutory rapist” thing is going to come back up again, so will everything else. They haven’t gone away. Norris has still said strange things about pedastry, has still defended Cathal O’Searchaigh. The more hard right media will go back to that alleged “PIE” story (one I personally think reeks of bullshit, but it’ll still be reported and will still be a negative). They’ll also raise, again, the question of his views on age of consent laws. Norris is throwing himself back into that meatgrinder.
Norris, barring some kind of gamechanging event(s), cannot win this election. And the horrifying scenario where a multi-schism left vote allows Gay Mitchell to sneak in and become the head of state would actually be within reason. Seriously, if that happens, and Gay Mitchell becomes President, I will never forgive David Norris.
Stepping back for a moment, I will state simply that nothing has changed in my eyes about the Senator. I still consider him, for a wide range of reasons, unsuitable to be the first citizen. He’s abused his power, he’s had numerous questionable events attached to him, his record as a Senator is mediocre. No one made him quit before, and I would have considered his doing so to be a statement that he no longer considered himself suitable for the post. Staff members didn’t quit his campaign because conservatives were victimising him. They left because they weren’t happy with parts of his past. They left because they no longer thought he should, or could, be President.
He’s allowed change his mind. I am allowed to not change mine. The coming week will be fascinating.