Senator David Norris hailed a 'true hero' as he opens up about his activism, first love and presidential campaign

Senator David Norris opened up about his life's journey on this week's episode of 'Keys To My Life'.

Senator Norris
Image: RTE | Keys to my Life

Senator David Norris was the guest on this week’s episode of ‘Keys To My Life’, where presenter Brendan Courtney meets Irish personalities who reveal how the places they’ve lived in have shaped their lives. Throughout the episode, as Norris and Courtney revisited homes from his past, David reflected on his life’s journey.

First Love

On visiting his childhood home in Ballsbridge, Dublin, he says:

“I used to look out because the fellow I was in love with in school lived out in Milltown. And I could locate where he lived by looking at the Montrose aerial lights… I was in love with him.”

“Did you ever tell him?” asks presenter Brendan Courtney.

“Of course I did!” David Norris replies. “He was delighted. Yes, he was. He was largely heterosexual… He was the first love, which is very special.”

“And you remained friends for years,” says Brendan Courtney.

“Still friends,” continues the Senator. “He married a lovely girl from Kerry, but I was heartbroken. I wouldn’t grudge [sic] him his happiness, but I was heartbroken… Devastated.”

The first openly gay person interviewed on Irish TV

In the show, Senator Norris revealed that in 1975, RTE had offered to disguise his identity when he became the first openly gay person to be interviewed on Irish television.

At the time, Norris was the Chairman of the Gay Rights Movement. With homosexuality a criminal offence in 1975, RTE offered to disguise Norris for the interview which Norris refused.

Norris said: “[RTE said] ‘We’ll disguise your voice, we’ll put you in shadow.’ I said: ‘Well then I’m not doing it.’

“The whole point of it is to show me as a human being, to take away the fear that people have that gay people are monsters.”

During the 1975 interview, Norris was asked if homosexuals are “sick” to which Norris explained that he wasn’t sick.

“That programme was found to be at fault by the complaints commission because I said I wasn’t sick.

“We weren’t allowed to say that. I immediately applied for Sickness Benefit and they wouldn’t give it to me.”

Media attacks during the presidential bid

In the programme, Senator Norris spoke about his campaign for the presidency in 2011. He recalled the “homophobic” attacks against him in the media which he feels had a detrimental impact on his health.

“I’m convinced the liver cancer was a result of the trauma I was put through and I do not forgive them.”

‘Gentleman and champion’

Viewers of ‘Keys To My Life’ praised Senator Norris.

John Kavanagh said: “So wonder seeing a #truelegend @SenDavidNorris on #KeysToMyLife a gentleman and champion.”

Stephanie Wall said: “David Norris has always been a huge hero of mine! When I did my entrance test to the EBCL degree in UCC I wrote about how it was thanks to him that the ridiculous laws on homosexuality were abolished He dragged our laws kicking & screaming into the 20th century!”

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