HIS good friend and fellow presidential hopeful Michael D. Higgins can at least boast he was born in Limerick but Senator David Norris was also playing up his Shannonside credentials on a visit to the city this week.
“I love Limerick and I’m not just plamas-ing - ask people who know me. I know it and love it since long before I had any ambitions for Aras an Uachtarain,” Senator Norris told the Limerick Leader.
“I’ve been down so many times to the Hunt Museum; I’ve performed in the wonderful auditorium in the university, and they respect artists out there. Limerick is part of my life. My people are from Laois, the halfway point so our choice of city to go to was Limerick or Dublin.
“They knew how to treat the Georgian architecture in Limerick. If you look at Pery Square and what people have been doing there. They had the wit to take down the awful neon signs and horrible facia. There’s a great elegance there that reminds me of the song - and I’m not going to sing it because I’m not allowed – ‘Limerick, You’re a Lady’. That is true, I know it and I can say it with sincerity and conviction.”
The colourful senator was speaking at the Strand Hotel before addressing the Insurance Institute’s annual dinner. It rounded off a day spent visiting the Brothers of Charity in Bawnmore, getting some golf pointers from Special Olympians at Rathbane Golf Club and with the Limerick Regeneration team. There was also the small matter of meeting his Limerick supporters at the Castletroy Park Hotel and further Norris for President events are planned for Limerick between now and the presidential election in the autumn.
There was no avoiding the other election campaign going on the moment and Senator Norris hopes the public won’t be suffering from election fatigue when the time comes to cast their presidential votes.
“We have to unite the people, face the challenges and bring the whole population together - and parties tend to divide. A president unites and I think I’m good at that,” the independent candidate said.
“In Bawnmore, there was one young man with severe difficulties. He was lying on his bed, he had the most wonderful smile and they asked him did they know who I was. And he was able to say David Norris. That was absolutely wonderful. He gave me a marvellous smile and sang ‘Danny Boy’.”
“Bawnmore is such an inspiring place when you think of the difficult conditions they face with budgetary restrictions, restrictions on recruitment of personnel - wonderful people in challenging circumstances giving out all the humanity you could possibly ask for.”
Senator Norris has made a career of principled stands on such issues as rights for gay men and women and justice for the Palestinians.
Asked if, as president, he could in all conscience give legal effect to a bill with which he didn’t personally agree, he said he would have powers to convene the Council of State in such cases.
“Having been in the legislature for the last 24 years, I understand how legislation works and I have spoken about the constitutionality or otherwise of various bills. I was asked that kind of question in Tipperary last night, whether I could contain myself. And I said ‘Funnily enough, I am a very well brought-up boy’. Brought up by three wonderful women: my grandmother; my mother, who I loved; and my aunt, who I absolutely adored and I do understand there is an appropriate time and place for certain things. I have had a career as a human rights advocate and as a controversialist totally appropriate for the back benches of Seanad Eireann. But that tone might not be appropriate for Aras an Uachtarain.
“As the highest officer of the State under the constitution, I would of course have to abide by that constitution and would be required to sign it and would do so because it would be the will of the people as expressed through the legislature. It would not be a moment for me to introduce my own personal feelings or concerns. You have to be beyond that and I believe I could be.”