Speaking on RTÉ’s Liveline programme yesterday, Helen Lucy Burke, who interviewed Mr Norris for Magill magazine in January 2002, questioned his suitability for the presidency as a result of the “startling” views she said he expressed to her in the interview.
In the interview Mr Norris was quoted on his opinion on sexual activity in a historical context.
“In terms of Classic paedophilia, as practiced 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.”
He was also quoted on his views as to varying levels of seriousness of abuse.
“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.”
In a statement, Mr Norris said the quotes were “misleading” and taken “out of context” in what was an academic conversation.
“During the course of a conversation, Ms 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 outlets.
“The presentation of references to sexuality in the article attributed to me were misleading in that they do not convey the context in which they were made. People should judge me on my record and actions as a public servant, over the last 35 years and on the causes and campaigns, for which I have fought, and not on an academic conversation with a journalist over dinner. I did not ever and would not approve of the finished article as it appeared.”