Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cathal Ó Searcaigh - the questions

Photo by aNantaB (Flickr)

In all the furore that surrounds the documentary Fairytale of Katmandu about poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh's sexual relationships with teenagers and young men in Nepal, there is one piece of analysis that stands out. This is an article in Saturday's Irish Times by Dermod Moore who is also a columnist with Hot Press. The article is part of the Irish Times' premium content but Moore raises the following questions which I think go to the heart of the matter:

"Firstly, roughly what proportion of those men in his coterie has he had sex with? This goes to the heart of his motives for being there in the first place - was he a sex tourist, masquerading as a philanthropist? Or was he, as he and his friends claim passionately, a philanthropist who occasionally had consensual sex?

"Secondly, we need to establish whether or not his "legendary" generosity was conditional on having sex with him. Was it generally understood among his friends that "boogie-ing" was how to please him, in order to reap financial reward?

"Thirdly, concerning those who did have sex with him, what long-lasting effect did their relationship with him have?

And, lastly, what understanding does Ó Searcaigh have about their motives for having sex, never mind his?"

Ó Searcaigh raised money in Ireland for his charitable works in Nepal. A lot of NGOs in Ireland raise money for projects in the Third World. If it turned out that the chief executive of an NGO was, while visiting one of these projects, having sex with teenagers in his bedroom and then buying bicycles and other gifts for them, questions would be raised as to his ability/inability to maintain suitable boundaries between his sex life and his work.

There is no evidence in the film that Ó Searcaigh has established a structure in Nepal to distribute the money he raises. It may be that there is such a structure but that the film maker did not address this in order to keep the focus on his sexual activities. However, in all the protests coming from the Ó Searcaigh camp, I have not heard any mention of any such structure. A charity should have a structure and accounts. We have not heard of either in relation to Ó Searcaigh's charity. If these do not exist, if a structure does not exist, then that is a long, long way removed from best practice or even good practice in this field.

Three more questions: Was film-maker Neasa Ní Chianáin right to show the faces of Cathal Ó Searcaigh's sex partners? Wouldn't it be normal practice to blur them out in this sort of documentary? What consequences will their exposure have for them and their families in future?

(This is the complete post. Ignore "Continue reading" link below.)
Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

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