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Saturday 22 July 2017

Gay poet's PR man launches attack on TV film

Ciaran Byrne

THE Annesley suite in Dublin's Alexander Hotel was full yesterday afternoon but the man everyone was talking about was nowhere to be seen.

Poet Cathal O Searcaigh was launching a fightback of sorts but he stayed away, choosing to leave it to his PR consultant.

Liam Gaskin was Mick McCarthy's adviser during the Saipan/Roy Keane debacle and yesterday he went into full attack mode for his new client.

The poet remains silent and in hiding weeks after the first screening of 'Fairytale of Kathmandu', a film made by his former friend Neasa Ni Chianain.

Tonight it will be shown on television for the first time, illustrating the relationships between the poet and young Nepalese men, some of whom slept with the 52-year-old after being given gifts and money.

Exploited

At best, it shows O Searcaigh did nothing illegal in sleeping with the teenagers.

At worst, it shows he exploited his relative wealth in a country where poverty is rife, using his cash to satisfy his sexual desires among highly vulnerable young men.

His critics say he is guilty of the worst sort of sex tourism and it has nothing to do with the poet's homosexuality.

His friends claim, unconvincingly to many people, that he is being persecuted for that simple fact.

Yesterday's event was a heated affair with Mr Gaskin launching a furious denunciation of Ms Ni Chianain's film, replete with suggestions of homophobia and entrapment.

With O Searcaigh's adopted son Prem looking on, Mr Gaskin produced a 16-point dossier, later rebutted by RTE and charity officials based in Nepal.

There were complaints about copyright disputes and translation mistakes. But there was also an inescapable feeling these had little to do with the substantive issues at hand.

Gaskin was doing all the talking but few were in any doubt they were O Searcaigh's words. As the meeting wore on, they got increasingly vituperative.

O Searcaigh and gay culture were being "demonised". Ms Ni Chianain had "an agenda" and was "biased." Her previous work for RTE had been "average" and the present controversial film was "dishonest", he claimed.

Gaskin, who met O Searcaigh two weeks ago, brushed aside suggestions of immorality over the poet having sex with young men after showering them with gifts.

He was simply enjoying a gay lifestyle with consenting partners and to compare this with exploitative sex tourism would be "abhorrent", Mr Gaskin said.

A video was shown in which a number of Nepalese men testified that O Searcaigh was their friend and that "Neasa" had tricked them. The footage, it later emerged, was shot with a camera "provided" by the poet's friends for the video filmed two weekends ago in Nepal.

Later, and perhaps more damningly, Krishna Thapa, the director of Voice of Children, a Nepalese charity, said in a statement: "I am aware that Mr O Searcaigh has offered rewards and put pressure on some of the young Nepalese after they made their allegations, in an attempt to get them to withdraw their original statements.

Confident

He added: "Voice of Children is confident that the statements included in the film 'Fairytale of Kathmandu' are accurate, and that Mr O Searcaigh's behaviour has affected a number of vulnerable youths in Nepal in a seriously negative way."

Despite Mr Gaskin's best efforts, it seemed yesterday only the silent O Searcaigh can answer the growing list of questions now being posed. But as the PR man wrapped it up, he added: "He may never speak".

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