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Fear and loathing of a David Norris presidency

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It's fashionable in right wing circles to moan about liberals promoting their political agendas (and candidates) in the media.

After all the media has a distinct liberal bias we're told - usually by the agents of Rupert Murdoch's unprecedented international media empire.

Take the conservative British broadsheet The Sunday Times for example. Yesterday evening John Burns, the Associate Editor of The Sunday Times, tweeted that he had six more letters from Irish presidential candidate David Norris pleading for clemency on behalf of his former partner Ezra Yitzhak to Israeli authorities (presumably).

'I predict it will have a big impact on (the) Norris campaign,' he wrote.

Here we go again. Trust The Sunday Times to have Ireland's best interests at heart. It's already being called the dirtiest presidential campaign in the Republic's history for good reason, so it's a bit nauseating to hear conservatives moan that Norris is being given special treatment in the press.

The fact is Norris is still being tarnished by association - in an unusually blunt and open manner - in an orchestrated mud spreading campaign by conservatives in the media and on social networks.

From the beginning he has been subjected to a level of scrutiny that no other candidate in the race has endured. So if you can discount the disgusting appeals to your worst nature, right now might be a moment to take a deep breath and remember who David Norris actually is (and is not): he's a distinguished academic, a state senator, a classic anglo Irish Protestant, an accomplished civil rights activist and an internationally renown Joycean.

Writing a letter of clemency on behalf of a former partner (whose mental health concerned him) is not the same thing as committing the statutory rape of a juvenile. I’m not arguing that Norris' made a prudent decision two decades ago but to equate what he has done to abuse of a minor is wrong.

Why haven't the press held Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell to a similar account after he plead for clemency for a man who committed a double murder? Where was the outrage and the orchestrated internet campaign to trumpet that?

And let's be honest, this Irish presidential season offers many more disquieting Pandora's boxes just waiting to be thrown open. Why haven't they been?

All of this may be forgotten by Friday. Because if - and it's a big if - Norris actually secures enough support to run, it's still by no means certain that the shadowy political forces gunning for him (they have already included pro-Israeli factions and the Irish right wing) will just step aside.

It doesn't take much imagination to picture phones ringing off the hook and irate party hacks barking orders to Oireachtas members.

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