independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Revealed: how poet set up 'charity' fund

Controversial Irish poet Cathal O Searcaigh

UNDER-fire poet Cathal O Searcaigh asked celebrities, including Gay Byrne, to help him raise cash for "15 kids from penniless families" in Nepal.

The Irish Independent has learned O Searcaigh's written appeal in 2005 said "the moneys raised will open doors of educational opportunities for youngsters in Nepal".

O Searcaigh is now believed to be in hiding in Morocco after an RTE documentary film focused on his relationships with a string of young men in Nepal.

He asked up to 250 people including broadcasters, artists and writers to donate personal works for a special auction in support of his "charity" in the impoverished Asian country.

The openly gay poet raised at least €50,000, some of which went directly to a number of teenagers he had sex with on visits to Nepal and some of which funded his trips to the Himalayan country.

It is unknown how the total amount was spent, but there were growing calls last night for a detailed account of O Searcaigh's spending.

Writing in October 2005 he said the cash would provide "essential financial support for 15 young people from penniless families enabling them to get an education or training in a particular skill or trade".

Among the 80 donors was Gay Byrne and his wife Kathleen Watkins, who gave self-portraits in the form of doodles depicting Byrne on a motorbike and Watkins playing a harp.

When contacted by the Irish Independent, Mr Byrne said: "I would be concerned about where the money went, but what can I do about it?"

And his PR consultant Liam Gaskin, hired two weeks ago, confirmed yesterday he was no longer representing the poet.

RTE said 'Fairytale of Kathmandu', made by Neasa Ni Chianain, attracted 253,000 viewers and the station had rejected demands for last-minute changes.

Vulnerable

In the film, O Searcaigh denied he was a sex tourist who exploited vulnerable young men in Nepal by giving them cash and gifts in return for sex.

The poet's supporters claim his homosexuality is being demonised, a charge dismissed by critics who say the core issue is that the poet exploited his wealth for sexual favours.

Ms Ni Chianain has also come under fire over how the film was shot and whether she was fair to O Searcaigh.

Senator Eoghan Harris said: "There is no doubt that he has questions to answer about his behaviour, which seems inappropriate even if not illegal.

"On the other hand, I thought the documentary reeked of bad faith, and I was particularly unhappy with the way it was edited."

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said its "main concern was the boys in this film, and there is no doubt in our minds but that this film was about their exploitation. Responsibility always rests with the adults in the area of exploitation."

In December 2005, €50,000 was raised at an event attended by 150 people in Co Donegal. Others who contributed included Nobel prize winner Seamus Heaney, who donated a hand- written poem, and artist Pauline Bewick, whose painting fetched €4,200.

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