On Monday week, I’ll be interviewing Senator David Norris on his bid to become Ireland’s President later this year. In what’ll be the first big event of the campaign, the Senator and I will be having what promises to be a fun evening in front of a live audience in Galway’s University campus. In a news environment where it’s impossible to avoid the dismal conduct of politicians, it’ll make a welcome change to discuss positive issues with such a colourful figure.
In recent times, the Presidency has been transformed. What was formerly the political equivalent of a nice pen set for a retiring Fianna Fáil minister, the cobwebs in the Aras were emphatically blown out following the election of Mary Robinson. While the hand that rocked the cradle rocked the system during her campaign, she rocked the foundations of her office for seven years: she met with Queen and shook hands with Gerry Adams, she spoke out on human rights disasters in Somalia and Rwanda, and in her constitutional battle with Charles Haughey she asserted the President’s independence and gave what was a staid and dowdy office a fresh and liberal face.
Her successor Mary McAlesse’s carried on that torch in a slightly more moderate way, but her two terms were very much carried out on Robinson’s trail. Now, when the reputation of the political classes would have to reach up to get in the gutter, a vibrant, active and morale-boosting President has rarely been as important.
As candidates go, Norris is a popular contender even at this early stage, but he has his obstacles. For starters, he won’t get on the ballot at all if he doesn’t get the nomination of 20 Oireachtas members or the sanction of four county councils. On the issues, his sexuality has been deposed into the argument with brazen and innuendo-laden vigour by the Campaign For Conscience. Since his term would encompass him being Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces for the Easter Rising centenary celebrations, his republican credentials will also no doubt be called into question. But, it’s a long campaign, and no doubt it’ll be an eventful one. But it starts this Monday.
Due to an unforseen medical appointment, it is my deep regret to say that we've had to postpone our evening with Senator David Norris. We hope to reschedule again as soon as we can, but in the meantime my sincere apologies for everyone who had planned on watching either live and online, and my heartfelt thanks for all your best wishes and support.