Saturday 22 July 2017

Writer gets backing of colleagues in sex trial

Hogan admits assault on 15-year-old

Anne Lucey

THE literary wagons have circled around the writer Desmond Hogan as he pleaded guilty at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee last week to the aggravated sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy, in November 2006.

Hogan in dark clothing, and with a severe hair cut, cut a troubled-looking figure. When arraigned and asked how he was pleading, there was a painful pause before he uttered the word guilty.

With Hogan in court, standing loyally by him, was his publisher and long-time friend Antony Farrell of Lilliput Press.

Mr Farrell has described Hogan as one of Ireland's most evocative prose writers, and an international figure dealing with people on the margins.

The publisher also read a statement from Colm Toibin -- a member of the Arts Council and the editor of the Penguin Book of Irish Fiction, in which Mr Toibin described Hogan as a writer "of immense power and importance".

His work dealt with human isolation and suffering, "the lives of damaged souls and figures on the margin", Mr Toibin said in the statement. It was perhaps as a result of his serious dedication and his talent that he had, in recent years, become an isolated figure himself, he added.

Hogan, born in 1950, is the son of a draper. He grew up in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, and is best known for his collection of short stories The Diamonds at the Bottom of the Sea and an exceptional first novel, The Ikon Maker, which dealt with a mother's unwilling recognition of her son's homosexuality. He also had three other successful novels, The Leaves on Grey, A Curious Street and A New Shirt.

The 57-year-old writer has long since left the Ballybunion area and the house in a lane at East End -- around 70 yards from the Co Kerry town's garda barracks -- which he rented for about six years.

However, few locals had come to know him.

One local man described him as cycling at dusk and then going for a swim on the Men's Beach. He would also be seen exercising at Nun's Beach, skipping.

But people did not think him sinister, just odd and eccentric. "Unusual" was one word that was used. He was also thought to be short-sighted, having at one stage run into the back of a vegetable van parked outside the Golf Hotel. Many did not even know he was a writer.

Just miles from Ballybunion, Hogan appeared to be totally unknown and was certainly not one of the leading lights of nearby Listowel Writers' Week.

However, at least one shop in the north Kerry area removed his books from their shelves when word of the assault on the boy got around.

During evidence, Sgt Michael McCarthy said the injured party was one of three boys in the Hogan's chalet on the date in question.

The writer was showing them sketches and etchings and various photographs of naked people. The material was not modern but Renaissance art, Sgt McCarthy said.

The assault took place when the injured party's friends left to go a local shop, beginning in the kitchen with the accused removing all the boy's clothes and then his own clothes. Sgt McCarthy told Judge Moran that Hogan proceeded to kiss the boy.

At this point of evidence, Hogan rose to his feet and walked towards the bench saying: "I do not subscribe to this. It is not true, it is not true."

When he resumed his evidence, Sgt McCarthy said Desmond Hogan had next retreated to the bedroom and placed the boy on the bed face downwards and sexually abused him for some time.

The boy's friends returned and asked what had occurred. Hogan denied anything had happened, and when the boys said they wished to call gardai, he did not do so.

The boys left for the injured party's house and he was brought by his mother to make a complaint at the garda station that night. Traces of semen were found on the boy and on his clothing, but no bruises, the court heard.

The case has now been adjourned for a probation report.

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