David Norris and Those Pesky Letters

What is David Norris hiding now?

So at last we have the final line up for the Presidential Election 2011 (#aras11) and Norris made it over the line. It seems the media have gone from following his roller coaster trip from council to council to – without  stopping for breath – pursuing him on the rest of the clemency letters he wrote for his former partner convicted of statutory rape.

To be honest. I wasn’t particularly interested in their contents. I felt letter-gate had been well aired and not forgotten – people in the privacy of the ballot boxes would make up their own minds’ on his explanation.

But then along came this legal advice crap. Speaking on the radio with Pat Kenny this morning he said:

I am absolutely restricted by questions of privacy,” he said. “I understand people’s interest but I’ve been told by my lawyers that these letters are subject to professional legal privilege and I’ve been told I cannot publish them.

Huh. Professional legal privilege. Professional legal privilege. What the hell does that mean? He’s not a solicitor advising a client. Nor a doctor advising a patient. Where does privilege come into it? I cannot possibly fathom how it could be covered by data protection.

He wrote multiple letters seeking clemency for his ex-partner – either in a personal capacity or abusing his position as a Senator. These are not letters to constituents who would have an expectation of privacy. I cannot see where professional legal privilege comes into this. So, I’m forced to wonder – is he protecting the recipients or himself? I suspect the latter. What is David Norris hiding now?

Publish the letters or publish the legal argument and advice in full. I’m sick of politicians quoting some intangible legal privilege to protect themselves. In that same interview, Norris claimed he was about the most transparent person in politics today. It doesn’t feel like it Senator, it doesn’t feel like it.

One thought on “David Norris and Those Pesky Letters”

  1. I would have described myself as a tacit supporter of David Norris and his bid for the Aras.

    I suspect I shared the view of many of those who have supported his bid to get on the ticket, namely, that ” letter-gate” was water under the bridge. That it had been dealt with and that David Norris should now be judged solely on what would make him the best Presidential candidate.

    Irrespective of whether or not one was in harmony with his views or philosophies, to deny him the opportunity to enter the race,  would in my opinion, have denied the electorate of the opportunity to judge him on his merits. Therefore it was with much relief I learnt on Tuesday evening, he had finally received the support of the four councils required to enable him to have his name entered on the ballot paper.

    This state of mind though, was severely dashed the following morning as I listened to his interview on the Pat Kenny show. David Norris himself had now reintroduced “letter-gate”, only this time with a completely new twist. Instead of simply agreeing to either publish or offering alternatively independent verification of his contention that they contained nothing new, David Norris had shifted tack.

    This time his reason for not publishing took on a new veil. On the advice of “unnamed lawyers”, “legal privilege” precluded him from revealing their content.

    Really ? “And who exactly were these unnamed lawyers I asked myself” ?.

    The term “lawyer” is a very loose term. In Ireland and the UK it includes a broad range of legally trained individuals. It could for example, refer to someone who was trained in conveyance or it could also be a reference to a judge sitting on the bench of the supreme court.

    As I listened for clarification, expecting that the identity of these unnamed individuals to be revealed and as such lend credibility to his “legal privilege” argument, it became clear that this would not be forthcoming. Instead, it was simply underpinned with more and more of David’s ability to pontificate about nuances of little substance and his desire to move on and discuss other issues which in his opinion were more pertinent to the debate. Indeed they may well be, but as Pat Kenny was forced to inform him, he was not on the show for that purpose but specifically to deal with the question of the letters. Despite that nothing further was revealed during the rest of the interview.

    To be honest, my view of David Norris was changed during the course of that interview. He was shallow and lacked credibility. Indeed it had nothing to do with the fact that he had written a letter or letters. This was simply do with his continued attempts to hide from some issue or issues which most obviously if revealed, will again put into question his suitability to be the next President of Ireland. Yes I am sure that if all candidates were put under the same scrutiny issues would be revealed which could put their candidacy into question. In this instance however, it is not the other candidates which are being asked to provide an explanation about letters. It is David Norris and it David Norris alone who must convince people that he is bona fide and that he has nothing further to hide.. His continued attempts to circumvent this fundamental question is severely damaging his credibility.

    Either he deals with it immediately or his attempts to be elected are doomed.

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