“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
With those words from Samuel Beckett Senator David Norris eloquently bid farewell to his hopes of becoming president of Ireland.
He would have been a good one. Having dipped a toe in that water myself I marveled how much Norris had inflamed the imagination in Ireland, especially of young people and was easily leading in opinion polls .
The presidency has become a barometer of social change in Ireland, the two previous incumbents, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese defined a new era in ireland.
For those who say the presidency is largely symbolic that is precisely the point. Robinson was the first woman, McAleese the first person from Northern Ireland.
They brought impressive credentials and delivered on them.
Over two decades they transformed what had been a sleepy backwater job populated by aging time servers into a dynamic expression of the new Ireland
I'm sure Norris would have done the same.
He had an inclusive and independent vision for Ireland, badly needed post church scandal and economic collapse.
I feel he should have been allowed to run even though I don't think he would have won, The political parties are too powerful, can raise the $1 million dollars or so easily and have troops on the ground to get out the vote.
Norris would have been starting from scratch in all those areas, akin to running against Republicans and Democrats for American president
Unfortunately, the qualification process for him to take part had more hurdles than the British Grand National horse race, cleverly placed there by the incumbent parties.
Twenty members of the legislature or four county councils have to approve you before you can put yourself before the people.
It is hardly a jury of the righteous .The county councils are stacked with many men and women who blithely gave planning permission to every cowboy developer in the country. The parliament and seanad are stacked with party loyalists who will do their leaders bidding.
That made it very difficult for Norris to begin with, because he was running as an independent and not one with deep pockets either.
Despite leading in every opinion poll he could never tie down those twenty votes and then came the two scandals.
The first was explainable, a loosely worded commentary on gay sex in ancient Greece, delivered over a decade ago.
The second was more serious, a letter supporting his former partner, who was found guilty of child sex abuse in israel.
It transpires that many politicians in Ireland have written such letters. Fine Gael presidential candidate Gay Mitchell wrote one to the governor in Florida pleading for the life of a man who murdered an abortion doctor.
But Norris' personal connection made this one fraught with difficulties. Suddenly the dam burst and independent politicians who had slowly been warming to his candidacy fled his camp.
Norris had no option but to end his run.
With him gone it becomes a far more drab contest. A Guardian writer wrote recently that he was one of the most impressive candidates they had ever covered.
I was deeply impressed after meeting him too.
But it was not to be. Norris was still too flamboyant a figure with a troubling indirect connection to the issue of child abuse that is hot as a pistol in ireland right now.
He would have made a great candidate, almost definitely a fine president, an independent voice at a critical time.
But it was not to be.
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