David Norris makes history as longest serving Senator in Ireland

In 1987, Norris became the first-ever openly gay person to be elected to office in Ireland.

Senator David Norris and Justice David Barniville standing in front of a portrait.
Image: Via Twitter - @SenDavidNorris

David Norris, known affectionately as the ‘Father of the Seanad’, has become the longest serving Senator in Ireland today, March 16.

A former university lecturer, he began his political career in 1987, when he became a member of the Seanad Éireann, and thus, the first-ever openly gay person to be elected to office in the country. Since then, he has been re-elected at each election, serving the country for 36 years.

Before becoming a Senator, David Norris was also a fierce LGBTQ+ rights campaigner and is remembered for having a crucial role in the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland. He began to fight for LGBTQ+ rights as early as the ’70s as co-founder of the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform, an organisation specifically set up to fight for decriminalisation.

Norris was also the man that took a case to the Irish High Court in 1980, arguing that the laws criminalising “homosexual conduct” was inconsistent with the Constitution of Ireland. When that case was lost, Norris decided that he wouldn’t stop there. He challenged the decision before the European Court of Human Rights in 1983 and won.


As a consequence of the case and Norris’s efforts, the law criminalising homosexuality in Ireland was repealed 30 years ago in 1993.

His work as a Senator and an LGBTQ+ rights campaigner was also commemorated two years ago, when a portrait of him was hung in Leister House to mark his 34 years of service and recognise his “singular contribution to Irish democracy”.


Norris himself shared the news of this achievement Twitter, saying: “Today I am the longest serving Senator in the State. Lovely lunch to celebrate here
@OireachtasNews #Seanad. Photo with Justice David Barniville, grandson of Henry Barniville who is now second!”

Congratulatory comments poured in in response to his post, with many praising Norris’s work and fundamental role in shaping today’s Ireland.

“Congratulations David and I hope you will be there for many more years to come. Wishing you good health,” wrote Senator Sharon Keogan.


Board member of the NXF, Adam Long, also replied, saying: “Warmest of congratulations David on this most appropriate honour! So many of us are indebted to you and your work, particularly in the [LGBTQ+] community. You embody everything the Seanad should be.”

Another user commented, “Congratulations David. You’ve been an inspiration to so many for a very long time. Wishing you good health and continued courage standing up for what’s right.”

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