David Norris' bid for the Irish presidency looks to be on the brink of collapse as a media onslaught that reeks just a little of McCarthyism continues to pile on the ammunition.


The latest scandal to rock the Norris camp looks to be the toughest one yet: the revelation that the flamboyant Senator used his public office to seek clemency for a convicted Israeli sex offender has prompted the desertion of both his elections and communications managers, and left him clinging to a desperate alibi that he 'remains committed' to running for office no matter what.


Norris also took the unusual step of allowing Ireland's biggest selling weekly newspaper The Sunday Independent to reproduce the grovelling correspondence in full. The paper carries the text of the letters as well as photography clearing showing that they were panned on paper headed with the Seanad (Senate) emblem.


The letters -- addressed to the Israeli High Court judges hearing a trial which resulted in the conviction of his ex-lover for underage sex -- were intended either as a character reference or as a 'mitigating factor' in his prosecution (likely both) and try to portray Norris' ex as a hardworking Jerusalemite plumber seemingly caught in the middle of an over-zealous prosecution.


Most critically, however, they clearly show a Senator abusing his position in Government to seek doubtfully legitimate clemency for a former boyfriend. Thus the uproar.


Not the first scandal


This isn't the first 'scandal' to rock Norris' rocky road to a now very unlikely nomination as President this October.


In fact if truth be told his campaign trail so far has been a more or less fluid collection of them.


A talk radio show recently returned to public memory a highly contested interview Norris conducted with current affairs magazine Magill in 2002.


The part Norris strenuously denies is a comment he allegedly made condoning pederasty in Ancient Greece. Although Norris' interviewer has since apparently lost the tape of the interview recording (unfortunately a remarkably common phenomenon where Irish politics and the media collide), few seem to have given Norris the benefit of the doubt from that episode.


Where Norris' treatment at the hands of the all powerful media differs from practically all other candidates, both past and present, is that seemingly only he has been subjected to what appears to be something of a longstanding smear campaign that finds its primary mode of attack in regurgitating decades-old controversies back into the public eye.


That does nothing to make Norris' abuse of parliamentary power any less reprehensible (nor, if true, would it excuse the pederasty remarks), but it has given many commentators - supporters and detractors of his campaign alike - the uneasy feeling that Norris' bid is running 'up against it' in a way that other pretenders to the throne simply aren't. Taking into account his rather colourful history as a longstanding advocate for gay rights - still opposed by a not discountable proportion of the Irish population - there's plenty of reason to believe that the various 'tip-offs' that now seem to have felled his floundering campaign were carefully pre-meditated.


Every candidate for presidency no matter where in the world can expect to come up against some measure of political sniping and dirt-digging during the course of their bid for office, but for some what they face crosses the line of fairness.


As much I don't support his bid and disprove of his letter, Norris, I'm beginning to think, may be one of the latter.