Guest blog: Hugh O'Connell ponders how scandal will define Irish senator David Norris
Outside of Prime Ministers it could be argued that few politicians are remembered once they leave office unless they are touched by a juicy scandal that is so often the making or usually breaking of a public servant.
For example, you probably won't remember David Mellor for his work in government as a senior Treasury minister. It's more likely the name will evoke memories of a tabloid story involving a toe-sucking sexual liaison and a Chelsea shirt.
Scandal, like it or not, often defines a politician and how they are remembered. For Irish senator David Norris, it appeared as if he would be remembered for a lot of good things he did as politician but this past week may well have done permanent damage to that.
Norris is well known and well regarded in Ireland. He was the first openly gay politician to be elected to public office and has served in the senate for the past 24 years. The senate is Ireland's upper house but is not directly elected, has little or no executive power and is likely to be abolished shortly. Few know or recognise senators but Norris is the exception.
As a long time gay and human rights campaigner who fought successfully to overturn Ireland's criminalisation of homosexuality, Norris is well-known and admired. A keen scholar of the author James Joyce, he frequently appears in public and in the media even hosting his own radio programme.
In a time when Ireland's trust in politicians reached all time lows amid the economic crisis and the arrival of the IMF, Norris remained popular. So when he announced he was running for president of Ireland in March, it was no surprise that he topped the polls and did so consistently for a number of months.
Although it's a largely ceremonial role the presidency carries with it undoubted gravitas and Norris appeared a shoe-in. He had a strong, mini-Obama type grassroots campaign with a savvy social media operation and plenty of young and enthusiastic volunteers.
But then came the scandal.
First a magazine interview from 2002 was dug up in which he was quoted as saying there was "something to be said" for pederasty - the ancient Greek practice of intimacy between a man and a boy. He claimed it was a smear and that he was misrepresented.
But just as he appeared to weather that storm and continued to top polls, along came a letter from 1997 in which Norris pleaded for clemency in the case of his former partner Ezra Nawi, an Israeli human rights activist, on trial for the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy in 1992.
Norris was accused of concealing the letter and when it came to light his senior campaign staff resigned and those who backed his nomination pulled their support.
The campaign ended with an ever-eloquent and emotional statement outside his home this Tuesday which itself ended with the press pack applauding him. There was still much admiration but this had been a disastrous error of judgment on Norris's part.
Yet it only came too late, some 14-years after the fact with one letter being all that was needed to do irreparable damage to a presidential dream. His reputation? Well that remains to be seen.
In the political obituaries, how will Norris be remembered? Perhaps as the gay rights campaigner whose name was synonymous with only positive developments in a changing Ireland.
But more likely as the man who could have been president until, like so many other memorable politicians, the scandal got him.
Hugh O'Connell is a journalist with TheJournal.ie. He has previously worked for BBC Radio 4, FIFA.com and Mercury Press Agency. He studied journalism at LJMU and is interested in UK, US, and Irish politics; international affairs and Liverpool FC amongst other things. He tweets at @oconnellhugh and very occasionally blogs at hughoconnell.com. You can email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org