Irish Senator David Norris, who looked set to become Ireland and Europe’s first openly gay president, has said the digging up of a nine-year-old interview in which he made controversial remarks about paedophilia is an act of sabotage.

The interview, which took place in 2002, reappeared in the Irish press on Monday. Consequently, his chances of becoming Ireland’s next president have been severely reduced.

As reported by Henry McDonald in the Guardian, Mr Norris had been ahead in all opinion polls in the race until this point.

The interview was with current affairs publication Magill. Norris had said to them: “I haven’t the slightest interest in children, or in people who are considerably younger than me.

“I cannot understand how anybody could find children of either sex in the slightest bit attractive sexually . . . but in terms of classic paedophilia, as practised by the Greeks, for example, where it is an older man introducing a younger man to adult life, there can be something said for it. Now, again, this is not something that appeals to me.

“Although, when I was younger, I would have greatly relished the prospect of an older, attractive, mature man taking me under his wing, lovingly introducing me to sexual realities, treating me with affection, teaching me about life.”

Mr Norris has said the re-publication of the piece is part of a smear campaign. Speaking on an Irish radio station RTE, he said that he abhorred any sexual contact with children, and opposed paedophilia and incest in all its forms.

He added that, in the original interview he had “engaged in an academic discussion about classical Greece and sexual activity in a historical context. It was a hypothetical, intellectual conversation which should not have been seen as a considered representation of my views on some of the issues discussed over dinner.

“People should judge me on my record and actions as a public servant, over the last 35 years and on the causes and campaigns, for which I have fought, and not on an academic conversation with a journalist over dinner. I did not ever and would not approve of the finished article as it appeared.”

However, Helen Lucy Burke, the journalist who wrote the story in question, contested the claim made by Mr Norris that she had repeatedly turned her Dictaphone on and off during the interview.

Ms Burke also said she had amended a draft of her article in Magill prior to publication in order for Mr Norris to make any suggestions about changes.

Mr Norris is a longtime gay rights activist and respected James Joyce scholar.

If elected, he has vowed to challenge homophobia worldwide.