Gay man likely to become next president of Ireland
 

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posted Friday, November 5, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 45

Gay man likely to become next president of Ireland
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Openly Gay Irish senator David Norris will become the next president of Ireland, if opinion polls are accurate.

The election will take place in the fall of 2011.

If Norris is elected, he will be the first openly Gay Irish president. He is now the first openly Gay man to be elected to any public office in Ireland.

He was first elected to the Irish senate in 1987, representing the University of Dublin, where he is a literature professor specializing in James Joyce.

If he is elected president, he would succeed Mary McAleese, who made headlines recently when she declined to be the 2011 grand marshall of New York City's St. Patrick's Day parade because it excludes an Irish LGBT organization.

Norris' sexual orientation is not the only unusual thing about him.

In a country that is 87% Roman Catholic, Norris is an Anglican.

He has strongly condemned both Irish republicanism and the pro-British Ulster Unionists.

Norris denounced the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising as 'terrorists' when most Irish think of them as martyrs.

Nevertheless, two recent opinion polls have put him ahead of all other possible candidates.

Norris did not plan to seek the presidency, but was persuaded to run when he discovered that more than 1,000 people had signed on to a Facebook campaign calling for his election.

'I've started very early in response to the Facebook campaign,' Norris told The Guardian newspaper.

'One of the Irish Sunday newspapers rang me up and said, 'Do you know that nearly 1,000 people have signed on Facebook calling for you to stand for the presidency?' It was Facebook which started all this, absolutely.

'I think it is very important to use modern technology. It helped get President Obama to win the election.'

Although Ireland once had the reputation of being the most conservative of Catholic countries, it now bans discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation. Polls indicate a majority of the Irish favor full civil marriage for same-sex couples.

Norris believes his sexuality will not be an issue even in the more conservative rural parts of Ireland.

'It's a non-issue,' he says. 'It's a non-issue with the people of Ireland. Some may have some concerns, and I hope I am able to address them.

'I have just had a major radio interview in Dublin and the interviewer asked me about it, and people came on the programme to say 'Will you get out of that? What does it matter! We want someone with vision ... someone who is independent.'

'The only person who said they would not vote [for] me live on air was a Gay man. He rang in to say it was great that a Gay man was standing for the presidency but that I was far too left-wing for him. I respect that man because he has parked what he sees as an irrelevant issue and instead goes on to analyze what I stand for.'

Asked if he was worried about tabloids making an issue of his sexual orientation during the campaign, Norris told reporters 'I have lived a decent, respectable life, and there has been no scandal.'

Apart from his sexual orientation, Norris is at odds with the Catholic hierarchy on many social issues.

He says it is a 'disgrace' that Ireland has no clear rules on stem cell research, for example. But Norris says he would be 'very surprised' if the hierarchy attacked him during the campaign.

'The church has become wiser, and there have been so many difficulties for the church over the scandals,' he said, referring to the revelations of child abuse in Catholic institutions. 'So I don't think the church is likely to intervene and condemn me as an individual. Those days are gone.'



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