Sunday 21 December 2014

'We need to know how Nepal charity cash was used'

Anita Guidera

Published 26/03/2008 | 00:00

AN artist who contributed to an auction which raised €50,000 for poet Cathal

O Searcaigh's work in Nepal, has called for the money to be re-directed to a regulated charity in that country.

Eilis O'Connell is one of a small number of Aosdana members who has raised concerns about the way in which the 2005 art auction was run and where the money was spent in the light of what has since been revealed.

"It is still very unclear where the proceeds from the auction went. I want to know if Cathal was using the donation to fund his trips," she told the Irish Independent.

She insisted that, in the absence of a trust, the Donegal poet must be held accountable for the money raised.

"Where is the money now? He must not be allowed to get away with this. The very least he can do now is re-direct those funds to a regulated charity based in Nepal," she said.

Earlier this month, the Irish Independent revealed details of a letter sent by the poet to over 250 artists and writers asking them to donate personal works for the auction to raise money for his "charity".

Among the high profile contributors to the spectacularly successful event in December 2005 were Gay Byrne and Kathleen Watkins, John McGahern, Seamus Heaney and Pauline Bewick.

In the perfectly composed letter written to his fellow members in the artists' collective, Aosdana, and other artists in Donegal, the poet said that the money raised 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".

But the maker of the documentary, 'Fairytale in Kathmandu', who travelled to Nepal with the poet after the auction, said she could see no evidence of educational or other projects being funded.

"Cathal was asked repeatedly by the director to show the film crew evidence of his work in Nepal, but all he could show was the purchase of bicycles and clothes for young men. The film is a more than fair portrayal of Cathal's life in Nepal," a spokesperson for the filmmaker said.

The film focuses almost entirely on the poet's relationships with impoverished young men.

When O Searcaigh was confronted by the filmmaker after his return to Donegal, he admitted he had sex with some of them but insisted that the door to his room was always open.

Eilis O'Connell said that she, "like most people" found the documentary "very shocking".

"He uses the concept of charitable-giving to camouflage his darker nature. I also think that deep down some part of him wanted to be found out. I would like to see something positive come out of all of this," she said.

Gay Byrne, who also contributed to the auction, criticised Senator David Norris for his comments on the O Searcaigh documentary.

"Having seen the documentary, I have no doubts that Cathal O Searcaigh was in the wrong. A damaged child is one thing for which there is no forgiveness," he said.

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