The Presidential election of 2011 was unparalleled for its viciousness. Every candidate except Michael D. was given at least one slap. I however got it every single day of the week for six months with virtually every newspaper except the Sunday Independent under Anne Harris, and every radio and tv station going into a homophobic orgy of vilification. RTE for example thought it perfectly appropriate to broadcast jokes that I would “Enjoy it up the Aras”, and the noises I would make when having sex with young people. They also broadcast a woman, a sometime writer on cookery saying five times without demur that I advocated parents having sex with their own children. These appalling outbursts in an unprecedented move copies of this were circulated to every county council in Ireland in an effort as she admitted to destroy my chances of getting a nomination were allegedly based on an interview she had done with me in 2001. Subsequent legal action led to the discovery of her original tape recording which showed that what she printed in the first place was in fact a grotesque distortion of my views. The only interviewers on radio and tv who treated me fairly were Pat Kenny and Ray D’Arcy.
In the Irish Times in a nasty series of articles a writer referred repeatedly to my “child rapist lover” and wrote of me in extraordinarily wounding terms. He also wrote of the Helen Lucy Burke controversy during which he stated categorically that the then editor of Magill had said that it was not be to published before I had been given an opportunity to read it and comment. In fact what happened was that three paragraphs were read out hurriedly to me over the phone while I was packing to go abroad. Not only were the changes I suggested not made but the errors were actually highlighted in a box.
A website was falsely established in my name to give a homophobic platform to fundamentalist Catholics. I was accused of being blind, an alcoholic, not Irish (shades of the Barack Obama birth stories) being a social welfare cheat, having sex with my students in Trinity, all complete lies. The story about my being a pension cheat and a social welfare fraud were carried by newspapers all of whom had the identical income protection insurance scheme in place for their own employees which I used, and into which I paid. One newspaper printed this, a member of the public objected, they apologised, they printed it again, my solicitor contacted them, they apologised and yet they printed it a third time on the very day of the election. The Sun newspaper devoted an entire front page with photographs, two inside pages and an editorial claiming that I had seriously abused the Senate to get passports for lovers, ignoring all other legitimate claims. In fact I had 180 files from asylum seekers whom I had helped and I never in my wildest dreams used the Senate to get a passport for any of those alleged to have been my lovers. An Irish American newspaper in New York retold some of these stories for which they later apologised. But the damage was done, all this stuff was up in the cloud and as far as I know remains there to this day.
With regard to the now notorious letters I wrote for Ezra, the definitive statement that of Professor William Schabas, Senior Professor at the Faculty of International Human Rights Law UCG
“Elected Irish politicians, especially those in Government, shouldn’t contact Irish judges to influence Irish cases. But it is an entirely different thing when the politician and the judge are from different systems. In that case, there is no fouling of the separation of powers, and no reason for the influence, if any, to be based on improper consideration.
When former Bosnian Serb politician Biljana Plavsic was sentenced for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yoguslavia prominent international personalities, including former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright and Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt argued for mitigation. Nobody thought that was unacceptable. Nor should they deprecate David Norris’s noble effort to ensure that an old friend wasn’t punished too harshly.”
At the end of the day I launched ten libel actions. This was a lengthy process for some of them fought vigorously against me but I am glad to say that I have just settled the final action and I have won every single case. I was financially ruined by the Presidential election but my debts have all been paid.
My treatment in particular was an extraordinary disgrace and a reproach to the Irish media. One of the tabloid editors actually had the gall to say to me that part of what was happening to me was payback time for the work I had done on the Defamation Bill. This was an attempt to rebalance the relevant situations of the press barons versus the ordinary citizen. I fought like a tiger on behalf of the ordinary citizen and had a considerable impact on the bill. I think it an abuse of democracy that any newspaper should be turned against a politician merely for doing his legitimate job. I have lived a decent and honourable life both in public and in private and I would like to see the media attain the same standard. I challenge them never ever again to engage in a campaign of lying and vilification against any public figure in Ireland. It is right that public figures should be made subject to scrutiny, but this should never be used to justify a campaign of abuse lies and vilification.
Senator David Norris