Pertinent questions ignored in Norris case


Can anyone outline the distinctions between Nawi’s behaviour and that of the man at the centre of the “X case”?

NOTHING IN recent years has revealed the ideological corruption of the Irish media as the David Norris saga. Nothing has so dramatically laid bare the extent to which our culture has been appropriated by people for whom words, facts, circumstances are no more than the raw material for beating Irish society in a new shape of their liking.

Anyone reading David Norriss 2002 Magillinterview was left with a nagging question: why would anyone want to say such things about paedophilia? The idea of an “academic” discussion about classical Greece was deeply implausible if you read the full text. Isn’t it interesting the way the interview turned out to be a kind of insurance policy when the details of his legal intervention on behalf of his convicted lover rapist emerged?

But, instead of publishing the relevant text when the interview resurfaced last May, most Irish newspapers carried comment pieces speculating about “smears”, “homophobia” and the possibility of a “right-wing conspiracy”.

The author of the article, Helen Lucy Burke, who raised the matter, was rubbished. Norris was given kid-glove treatment on primetime radio and television programmes, and allowed to bluster uninterrupted about ancient Greece.

Child abuse activists who criticised or questioned Norris were ignored, while his apologists were given centre stage. Instead of pursuing the unanswered questions, commentators revisited Norris’s record as a human rights agitator. Thus, a significant proportion of the population was persuaded that the Magillepisode was a bottle of smoke. Anyone insisting otherwise was daubed “homophobe”.

Had it been down to the investigative exertions of most of the media, the facts that have become public in the past week might not have emerged until after the presidential election, by which time the president of Ireland might have been a man who had failed to fully disclose to a foreign court the nature of his relationship with a convicted rapist. Even now, Norris’s fans in politics and the media seek to minimise what occurred, talking about “the culture of the time” and proposing that Norris was not “the worst offender” in seeking clemency for an accused person.

There is no reasonable comparison to be made between what Norris did and anything that has emerged about any attempt by any other Irish politician to plead on behalf of an accused or convicted individual.

Who else has sought to influence a court on behalf of a convicted lover rapist, while failing to disclose the full nature of the relationship?

Who has sought to use his position as an Irish parliamentarian to question the motives and procedures of a foreign jurisdiction in prosecuting and convicting a rapist lover?

But, instead of scrutinising the facts as would be automatic if the protagonist were a bishop or some less-favoured politician, most media coverage contrived to twist and reduce the meaning of Norris’s letter to the Israeli court, and to ignore the way it contextualizes Norris’s views on paedophilia, as communicated in his interviews with Magilland the Irish Daily Mail.

In exiting the presidential campaign, Norris was made to look like some kind of martyr, done down by a combination of illiberal forces and his own romantic folly. He loved, they told us, not wisely but too well.

Does nobody think it necessary to ask Norris the kind of questions journalists would immediately and automatically ask of a bishop found to have remained silent about an episode of clerical abuse?

For example: at what stage did he first become aware that Ezra Nawi had had sex with an underage boy, and what steps did he take to prevent a recurrence?

And, by the way, can someone outline for me the distinctions to be made between Nawi’s behaviour and that of the man at the centre of the infamous “X case”? There are no morally significant differences.

Thus, this saga tells us that we now reside in an Alice in Wonderland culture, where language, meaning and truth are putty in the hands of journalists. A glaring similarity between particular sets of facts no longer guarantees that similar meanings will be adduced.

Now, we must consider also how political or ideologically useful the protagonist is.

Sexual abuse is deplorable when it implicates people the media consensus disapproves of, but otherwise is a technical matter arising from the absence of enlightened legislation – resulting, one assumes, from a paucity of classically-educated legislators.

How, henceforth, can the citizen have any reasonable expectation of being told, truthfully and consistently, the facts and meanings of events? And how, in the future, is the citizen to take seriously media fulminating about child abuse, when it is clear that, when a liberal icon is implicated, commentators and editors are disposed to look the other way?

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.