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Norris labels resurfacing of Magill article as ‘smear’ on election campaign

The presidential hopeful says a 2002 article from Magill Magazine took a historical conversation out of context.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL SENATOR David Norris has said that an article published in Magill Magazine, in which he was quoted as saying there was “something to be said” for “classic paedophilia”, took his comments out of context – and described the renewed controversy over the 2002 interview as a “smear” on his election campaign.

The Magill article from January 2002, written by Helen Lucy Burke, quoted Norris as saying there was “complete and utter hysteria” on the topic of paedophilia, and “confusion between homosexuality and paedophilia on the one hand, and between paedophilia and pederasty on the other”.

Burke’s article also said Norris “did not appear to endorse any minimum age or endure any protest that a child was not capable of informed consent”, quoting him as saying: “The law in this sphere should take in to account consent rather than age.”

According to Burke’s piece, Norris said:

I cannot understand how anybody could find children of either sex in the slightest bit attractive sexually… but in terms of classic paedophilia as practised by the Greeks, for example, where it is an older man introducing a younger man to adult life, there can be something said for it. And in terms of North African experience this is endemic. Now, again, this is not something that appeals to me.

The fallout from the article caused Norris to break down in tears during a Sunday Independent interview with Joe Jackson in the weeks that followed, when his Magill comments were carried by other media outlets which he said had also misrepresented their context.

Speaking on Today with Pat Kenny this morning, Norris described the resurfacing of the article as part of a “smear” and said he hoped those who were circulating the “inaccurate, misleading misquotation” were ashamed of themselves.

I answered all the questions – on radio and in every newspaper… and now, Pat, that Magill article is being sent to all the [county] councillors in an attempt to prevent to get me from getting the nomination.

Electoral impact

Norris said Burke had continually turned her recorder on and off during their interview, and when she had called him to verify the veracity of his claims, he asked her to make some corrections – which she did not make before the article was published.

Burke contacted the radio show this morning contesting Norris’s claim, saying she had amended her draft article to allow for Norris’s suggestions before it was ultimately published in 2002.

Norris said the article had not had an electoral impact on him before now, and wondered why the article was resurfacing now when he was seeking nomination for the presidency.

This is a ten-year-old article – why is that?

He also added that he “abhorred” any sexual contact with children, and opposed paedophilia and incest in all its forms.

Speaking on Liveline yesterday, Burke said she had expected Norris to launch a libel action against the piece if he felt he was misrepresented in it, but Norris had evidently not done so.

While Burke said she still retained a tape with the original recording of her interview, she was not sure if the recording was still audible – saying it may have incurred water damage when her ceiling sprang a leak two years ago.

“I have no intention of attacking Ms Burke personally but I have no idea why she has brought this up now,” Norris said this morning. “I don’t know what her motivations are.”

Read the Magill article in full: Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3

Poll: Do you think Norris’ comments about sexuality will damage his presidential bid?

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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