- 22 Jan 24
The President thanked Norris for his "exceptional lifetime of dedication and service, for your passion, wisdom and at a personal level, for your friendship".
In a personal statement on released on Twitter, President Michael D. Higgins shared his letter he wrote to Senator David Norris on the occasion of his retirement, marking the end of Norris' 36 year tenure in the Seanad.
In the heartfelt letter, the President thanked Norris for his commitment to public life and said that: "it is an honour to send a message of appreciation for an outstanding gift of service Seanad Éireann and Irish public", however the President also noted that it was he was also writing in the capacity as a friend and colleague and wished Norris "personal joy in the years that will be your own".
David Norris' retirement comes after a 36 year long career as senator, making him the longest serving senator in the Seanad. Norris is a former University lecturerer, civil rights activist, James Joyce scholar and former presidential candidate, when he ran for the Irish presidency in 2011 against current President Michael D. Higgins.
Norris is perhaps best known for his 14 year campaign to decriminalise homosexuality in Ireland. In 1983, Norris took the attorney general to the High Court of Ireland to challenge the criminalisation of homosexual acts, where he argued that that the law infringed on his right to privacy and that since the introduction of the Constitution of Ireland, the law was repugnant to the constitution as it was passed under British rule.
Norris lost his case and appealed to the Supreme Court of Ireland, where the High Court ruling was upheld by a 3-2 verdict.
In 1988, he took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, where the court ruled in favour of Norris. It was ruled that the law criminalising same sex activities was contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular Article 8 which protects the right to respect for private life.
The criminalisation of homosexuality was repealed in 1993. Higgins made reference to Norris' "pivotal role" in the Campaign for Homosexual Law reform, which President Higgins said 'enhanced the dignity and freedom of all the people of Ireland".
Norris was the first elected openly gay politician in Ireland when he was elected to the Seanad in 1987. President Higgins made reference in his letter to the collegiality the pair shared during their over lap as Senators saying: "Our collaboration in the Seanad in the years that we shared have both a privilege and a source of friendship that I treasure".
The President also made reference to Norris' career as a James Joyce scholar highlight Norris' role the organising of the Joyce centenary celebrations in 1982, his work on the foundation of Bloomsday, and the part he played in the establishment of the James Joyce Centre on North Great Georges Street.
Concluding the letter, Mr Higgins said: "As President of Ireland, may I extend my heartfelt gratitude for your exceptional lifetime of dedication and service, for your passion, wisdom and at a personal level, for your friendship".
"May I wish you happiness in your retirement and fulfilment as you begin this new chapter in your life, one that I hope will include a well-deserved rest in the knowledge that your work has helped make Ireland a better place for all."