Enter stage left, quote Beckett and exit, pursued by a dilemma

DAVID NORRIS entered stage left for the final command performance of his often precarious presidential campaign.

The media scrum that had been expecting Norris to emerge from his elegant Georgian front door was taken by surprise and swirled to envelop him as the two became momentarily locked in an uneasy embrace before he broke through the pack, past the tastefully erected velvet rope and took up position behind the impromptu mic stand.

An unashamed armature thespian to the last, Norris finished on a flourish of Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

But he would have been just as well sticking to his beloved James Joyce, particularly the line from Ulysses, which despairingly announces: “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

Norris seemed close to tears as he began his elegant, and at points, self-effacing speech, but rallied early on and held things together with dignity throughout — despite noticeably shaking as he delivered the well-crafted script.

His 25 years of public life and society-changing activism left so many hostages to fortune in its wake — some heroic, others foolish — that the path to the Áras was never going to be a smooth one.

An attempted smear campaign twisting his clumsily delivered views on pederasty in classical Greece had backfired and actually emboldened his campaign. But the revelations that he pleaded for clemency for former partner Ezra Nawi, who was convicted of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old, were never going to be easy to survive in post-Cloyne Ireland.

Though Norris insisted he stood over the letter of support for Nawi he had written to Israeli authorities, he added: “But I do regret giving the impression I did not have sufficient compassion for the victim of Ezra’s crime.

“I accept that more than a decade-and-a-half later, when I have now reviewed the issue, and am not emotionally involved, when I am not afraid that Ezra might take his own life, I see that I was wrong.”

But self-denial still interplayed with the unfolding realisation of what he had done and what he had failed to make public, as Norris placed the Nawi letter in the same category with his work to help persecuted Tibetan monks, East Timorese suffering under the brutal Indonesian dictatorship and US death row prisoners — without any reference to the fact this was an ex-partner, indeed the man he termed “in one sense, the love of my life”, after a rape conviction.

Reflecting that all his great journeys had begun from the steps of the opulent home behind him, Norris finally reached the crux of his script and acknowledged his bid for the presidency was now at an end.

And with that, and a brief flash of Beckett, a tired and emotionally exhausted looking Norris was done, as a flunky gruffly announced he would not be taking questions.

But the questions hung there in the heavy August air nonetheless. Namely, if the Nawi letter shows Norris is an inappropriate person to be president, why is it appropriate for him to remain in the Seanad?

Though brilliant sunshine danced out across the Georgian rooftops, the pavement below was bathed in grey shadows as Norris turned his back on the scrum and retreated from the stage — and as he did so all the colour and spectacle drained from the presidential campaign along with him.

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