Sex controversy poet opts out of writers' festival
CONTROVERSIAL poet Cathal O Searcaigh has pulled out of an event at next week's Dublin Writers Festival.
Mr O Searcaigh (57), who was at the centre of claims that he sexually exploited teenage boys in Nepal, was scheduled to read from a literary publication he helps to edit, 'Irish Pages', at The Gutter Bookshop next Sunday.
But he told the Irish Independent he had decided he would not attend, while refusing to answer questions about his past.
The poet's relationships with teenagers as young as 16 emerged after the TV documentary 'Fairytale of Kathmandu' was broadcast in 2008.
He previously defended his actions, saying the boys were above the age of consent.
Mr O Searcaigh, who co-edits 'Irish Pages', also contributes to a recent edition of the publication entitled 'Sexuality' with six Irish language poems.
Asked about the festival, he initially said: "Sorry, no comment, thank you, bye."
He then added: "Actually, I'm not participating. I may be mentioned there (on the festival website) because I'm the Irish language editor of 'Irish Pages'."
He ended the phonecall when asked if his contribution to the journal's recent edition on sexuality was a controversial move, given the nature of allegations over his friendships in Nepal.
A spokeswoman for the festival said Mr O Searcaigh told them "over two weeks ago that he was unable to attend the event".
The poet has been receiving Arts Council-funded grants from artists' organisation Aosdana for 12 years, claiming almost €200,000 in that time.
'Irish Pages' has received funding of more than €77,000 since 2007, and this year's festival has received €70,000 from the agency.
An Arts Council spokesman said it was not currently "funding Mr O Searcaigh directly" but acknowledged he was in receipt of Aosdana funds and was associated with 'Irish Pages'.
The spokesman added: "It wouldn't be appropriate for us to make any comment on his personal life."