David Norris, the gay Irish senator who is favorite to become Ireland’s next president has had to defend controversial remarks he made in a 2002 interview in Magill Magazine about sexuality and sex with minors.
The issue has resurfaced as Norris has become the bookmaker’s favorite to be the next president especially after the withdrawal of John Bruton, the former Prime Minister, at the weekend.
Writer Helen Lucey Burke who did the original interview back in 2002 went public again with it on RTE, Ireland state broacasting station on the popular Joe Duffy Show.
Poltics.ie which carried the original Magill story had over 21,000 comments within 24 hours, the overwhelming majority of them negative.
In response to the story resurfacing Norris, a Trinity College Joycean scholar, issued a statement on his web site which stated;
“I was the subject of a profile in Magill Magazine conducted by the restaurant critic and columnist Helen Lucy Burke for Magill Magazine in 2002. During the course of a comprehensive conversation, Miss Burke and I engaged an academic discussion about classical Greece and sexual activity in a historical context; it was a hypothetical, intellectual conversation which should not have been seen as a considered representation of my views on some of the issues discussed over dinner.
“The article did contain other valid comments from me on human rights and equality issues but the references to sexual activity were what were emphasised and subsequently picked up and taken out of context in other media.”
The writer of the article Helen Lucy Burke has denied that she quoted him out of context and stated in response “I found some of his views on sexual matters deeply disturbing - notably on sex with minors...”
She stated the main parts of the interview she objected to were the following comments made by Norris.
"In terms of classic paedophilia, as practised by the Greeks for example, where it is an older man introducing a younger man or boy to adult life, I think there can be something to be said for it. And in terms of North African experience this is endemic.
Now again, this is not something that appeals to me, although when I was younger it would most certainly have appealed to me in the sense that I would have greatly relished the prospect of an older, attractive, mature man taking me under his wing, lovingly introducing me to sexual realities, and treating me with affection and teaching me about life - yes, I think that would be lovely; I would have enjoyed that."...
"But I think there is complete and utter hysteria about this subject, and there is also confusion between ... paedophilia and pederasty..."[David Norris clarified this later, explaining that genital sexual penetration of juveniles of either sex would be inappropiate and harmful]...
"In my opinion, the teacher, or Christian Brother, who puts his hand into a boy's pocket during a history lesson, that is one end of the spectrum. but then there is another: there is the person who attacks children of either sex, rapes them, brutalises them, and then murders them. But the way things are presented here it's almost as if they were all exactly the same and I don't think they are. And I have to tell you this -- I think that the children in some instances are more damaged by the condemnation than by the actual experience."
The right of unfettered sexual activity guided by the principle of mutual consent would be Norris's perception of the way things should be, with a bar only on intimidation, bullying or bribery. He did not appear to endorse any minimum age or endure any protest that a child was not capable of informed consent. "The law in this sphere should take in to account consent rather than age".
When I asked about incest, he hesitated, and concluded that in the case of girls a case could be made for a ban, as possible resulting pregnancy might be genetically undesirable.