5 August 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The bid by Independent Senator David Norris to become a contestant in the Presidential election later this year has ended ignominiously.
The decision made by Senator Norris to withdraw his candidacy in light of the controversy over his misguided plea for clemency for a former partner convicted of statutory rape was the correct one.
His aspiration to the office of President has been rendered untenable by the poor judgement he displayed in this matter.
Although to a degree ceremonial, the position of President in this country has important ambassadorial and diplomatic dimensions.
Its current occupant and her predecessor have adeptly navigated the narrow straits that lie between circumspection and pronouncement in which the Irish President must sink or swim.
Careful judgement of what to say and when to say it has become part of the template of the post established by Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson and it is in the fulfilment of this requisite that Senator Norris has been found fatally lacking.
While the ebullient academic and civil rights campaigner had seemed ideally fitted to many of the habiliments of the office, he has failed a crucial preliminary test through all too human weaknesses of misplaced loyalty and impetuosity.
Senator Norris’ withdrawal from the Presidential race before the runners had even got to the official starting post will disappoint many.
But it will delight some.
Undoubtedly the Senator has been the subject of an orchestrated ‘dig the dirt’ effort by influential conservative forces in this country who would regard it as unconscionable to have the office of President fulfilled by a gay man – never mind a man who has boldly championed the rights of those of his sexual orientation and aligned himself with a number of liberal social causes over the course of his career.
Senator Norris undoubtedly assisted the digging exercise by having something in his past which displayed failings of judgement inimical with the office to which he aspired.
But the active pursuit of his derailment as a Presidential possible by forces exerting an influential pull upon the machinery of politics and the national media was nonetheless a sinister and objectionable development in what are still the preliminaries to this campaign.
Those candidates already declared and the others hoping to have their nomination finalised must now be sitting a little more uncomfortably, lest they too are subject to similar inquisitional scrutiny.
Are we in, one wonders, for a Presidential campaign of the same flavour as that which determines the occupant of the White House, with the cupboards of the contestants ransacked by the media and their rivals for office to see what skeletons might rattle out into the daylight?
Or has this treatment been reserved for Senator Norris alone because of his sexuality and his campaigning preoccupations?
It will be interesting to watch the progress of the presidential campaign over the coming months and determine the answers to these questions.

One would have thought that there was very little left to take away from Monaghan General Hospital if the last vestiges of decency were to remain attached to the concept of equitable health care provision in all parts of this country.
Apparently, however, this is not the case, and there appears every prospect from information brought to light by Sinn Féin TD for Cavan/Monaghan Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin this week (see story page one) that plans are shortly to be implemented to curtail the hours of operation of the Minor Injuries Unit at the Hospital, reducing what is at present a seven-day service to five and restricting the operation of the unit to conventional ‘office hours’.
This furtive endeavour to wring further economies out of the already eviscerated Monaghan Hospital site at the expense of the quality of care being made available to local people, and their sense of security and well-being, is nothing short of disgusting – and disgraceful.
It completely dashes underfoot the hopes for an improvement in the hospital’s fortunes under the new Fine Gael/Labour Government administration.
The prospect of services at the hospital being further dmininished rather than improved must be a painful one for this county’s Government Party TDs Sean Conlan and Heather Humphreys, and their party colleagues in local government, to contemplate.
Some rather rash promises were made regarding what the future of the hospital could be under FG in the run-up to the last General Election.
If the more extravagant of these were widely recognised as hyperbole and disregarded by the majority of voters, there was notwithstanding these an implicit understanding that, with a change of government, things at the hospital might not greatly improve in the short to medium term because of the prevailing economic climate, but they were hardly likely to get appreciably worse.
Sadly, those who voted FG in the last General Election in Cavan/Monaghan based on this belief are in the process of being badly let down.
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly talked tough about HSE reforms upon taking office, but he has done nothing to wrest power away from this bureaucratic behemoth and back into the hands of the people.
A recent meeting between the Minister and a delegation from Monaghan Co Council and Monaghan Town Council showed patently that it is the mandarins who are still calling the shots with their new ‘boss’, like his predecessor, little more than a cat’s paw towards the accomplishment of ends that have little or nothing to do with Hypocratic principles or what is best for the patient at local level.
There is undoubtedly another big Monaghan General Hospital fight looming if the current paltry level of services at the location are not to be even further depleted.
The Monaghan Community Alliance are preparing for such a combat, and they will undoubtedly get the backing of the people of Monaghan in the struggle.
But surely this is a fight that must be led by our FG Dáil Deputies and Co and Town Councillors.
The hospital issue was traded upon freely during the last General Election campaign and much capital made at the expense of the Fianna Fáil-led Government who had presided over the demise of acute services there.
Now is the time for those who gained office against this backdrop to take a courageous stance on behalf of the people who elected them, and carry the fight for Monaghan General Hospital directly to Minister Reilly’s door.

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