Today marked the end of a campaign by the gay man who had led public opinion polls to become Ireland's president.
Sen. David Norris was discovered this weekend to have long ago sent a letter to Israeli authorities asking for clemency for his former partner, Ezra Nawi, who was accused of statutory rape involving a 15-year-old boy. Norris failed to disclose that his ongoing relationship with Nawi, who was later convicted.
The Irish public, which has been upset by the molestation scandal in the Catholic Church, quickly seemed to withdraw its support for their once favored son. A string of high-profile resignations from Norris's campaign staff preceded wary statements from other prominent backers.
Norris acknowledged his mistake when announcing the end of his campaign today in a news conference held in front of his Dublin home.
"I deeply regret the most recent of all the controversies concerning my former partner of 25 years ago, Ezra Nawi," Norris said. "The fallout from his disgraceful behavior has now spread to me and is in danger of contaminating others close to me both in my political and personal life. It is essential that I act decisively now to halt this negative process."
Norris explained why he sent the letter.
"I do not regret supporting and seeking clemency for a friend, but I do regret giving the impression that I did not have sufficient compassion for the victim of Ezra’s crime," Norris said. "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."
The demise of his campaign brings with it an end to the hope of electing an openly gay man as a head of state. (There is one lesbian in such a position, Iceland's prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir.) But Norris said he'd proved something with his candidacy despite how it ended.
"It is now possible for a gay person to be seen as a viable candidate for the highest office in the land," he said. "I would have loved to have had the opportunity as president of Ireland to extend that to the service of the entire people but that is no longer possible."