If we’re honest, it was never going to happen.
It’s not that we wouldn’t elect a gay, erudite president. Far from it.
It’s that we were never going to be given the chance.
Mainly due to pressure of time, I wasn’t going to write about the demise of the Norris campaign, and for the same reason I’m not going to get into the moral rights and wrongs of Norris and of what he did, on headed notepaper from the Seanad or anywhere else.
But a tweet from George Hook, back on air after a holiday in Norway, changed all that.
George Hook wrote:
The political system is alive and well becasue David Norris failed to pass the rigourous test that every candidate should have to pass
Except that’s exactly what didn’t happen.
Despite the best efforts of many commentators, there appeared to be an enormous ambivalence towards Norris’ actions in writing to plead for clemency for his former partner.
In many cases, no effort was spared to shoehorn in the words “statutory rape” and “lover” in alongside the Norris name.
A Sunday Independent poll laughably asked whether or not Norris should have a partner should he be elected president.
And even if the vast majority of people ridiculed the very idea, the very fact that one of the biggest newspapers in the country would ask such a stupid question shows we’re not as grown up as we thought we were.
But that is not why Hook is wrong.
The moment the Norris campaign fell apart was not when the letters were revealed, nor during the controversy over the 2002 interviews resuscitated by Helen Lucy-Burke.
The moment his campaign fell apart was when the likes of the spineless Finian McGrath weighed up his options and decided that his interests would be best served by jettisoning Norris as fast as possible.
And in doing so, Finian denied us exactly what Hook claims we got.
The system of electing a president in Ireland is deliberately constructed to effectively disbar most Irish citizens from ever attaining the highest office in the land.
In order to get your name on the ballot paper, you must first secure the endorsement of the likes of fickle Finian and 19 of his colleagues.
And as we’ve just witnessed, even that is not usually enough as at the first sign of trouble, Finian will take his support wherever he thinks it will gain the most votes for him – not the candidate.
In withdrawing his support, he stopped the senator’s name going on the ballot paper and thus prevented the Irish people from passing the ultimate judgement on Norris.
Had we had the chance, we could have sent a clear message to Norris and the rest of the political classes that, along with being gay and clever, such interventions were either acceptable to us, or they weren’t.
Instead, Finian made up our minds for us, and all that remains is another week of talking heads telling us that is the senator – not the outdated, undemocratic, unrepresentative political system – that is wrong.
George, the only thing that today showed us is that the system doesn’t work.
Norris failed no “rigorous test”. He was damned in a poisoned court of public opinion until such time as those that supported him turned and fled.
And you can be sure that this was no test that “every candidate should have to pass”.
The asinine assortment of political nobodies left in the race inspire nothing but despair.
From left to right, they have either failed to live up to their billing, or never had a billing to live up to.
And that is why the system of electing a president should be changed. Let the Norrises and the Adi Roches and the Brian Lenihans stand up before the people, warts and all, and let the people vote. And if the people vote for them in numbers, let them be our president.
For the solution to a democratic problem is not less democracy and more decisions being taken over the heads of the electorate, including who gets to run for the highest office in the land.
As you no doubt heard during your recent two weeks in Norway, what is needed is more democracy, not less.