RTÉ to air Ó Searcaigh film despite poet’s pleas

A CONTROVERSIAL documentary about Donegal poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh is set to be broadcast by RTÉ tonight despite pleas by the subject to postpone its transmission because of its portrayal of his sexual relationships with young men in Nepal.

A war of words between the poet and the documentary-makers intensified further yesterday as supporters of Mr Ó Searcaigh held a press conference in Dublin in which they accused the film’s director of entrapment and manipulation of people who appeared in the programme.

The documentary, Fairytale of Kathmandu, is scheduled to be broadcast on RTÉ 1 at 10.15pm tonight.

Liam Gaskin, a public relations consultant acting for Mr Ó Searcaigh, yesterday issued a 16-point criticism of RTÉ and the documentary-maker, Neasa Ní Chianáin, over the treatment of the poet.

Mr Ó Searcaigh has been accused of the sexual exploitation of vulnerable young men by several organisations, including the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland as a result of the film.

Mr Gaskin also broadcast details of a video of 11 Nepalese friends of the poet, including three males who claimed they were misled by the filmmakers and had not signed any agreement to participate in the programme. However, Mr Gaskin admitted that just two of the 11 people had seen a full version of Fairytale of Kathmandu.

Mr Gaskin defended the poet, stating he had never attempted to hide the fact that he was openly gay or that he was attracted to younger males. One of the participants in the video, Nerang, who claims to be Mr Ó Searcaigh’s lover for the past two years, accused the documentary of being “biased” and demonising a gay writer.

Mr Gaskin said the poet had wanted RTÉ to postpone the programme in order to edit it properly to take into account his explanation of his relationship with young men in the film. He claimed the poet, who was not present at the press conference, would comment on the programme “in the fullness of time”.

“He’s just not in the right frame of mind. He feels incredibly hurt and betrayed by this,” said Mr Gaskin, adding the controversy had acted as a great distraction to the poet who was currently contracted to work on writing his memoirs.

In a response to the claims made by Mr Gaskin last night, RTÉ and Ms Ní Chianáin defended the content of the programme as “a fair and accurate portrayal of Cathal Ó Searcaigh’s activities in Nepal”.

“This films started as an affectionate arts profile of poet, Cathal Ó Searcaigh, but had to become an uncomfortable, but important exploration of sexual exploitation of young and vulnerable people in the developing world,” said RTÉ.

Ms Ní Chianáin admitted she had witnessed some behaviour on her first visit to Nepal with Mr Ó Searcaigh in August 2005 which made her “uneasy”, but it was only on her second visit to Kathmandu six months later that she fully realised the number of youths visiting the poet’s hotel room.

An RTÉ spokesperson said the broadcaster was satisfied the producers had adhered to RTÉ’s guidelines for programme-makers.

The station rejected claims some people who appeared in the documentary did so under duress and said it was satisfied all interviews were conducted “in a fair and transparent fashion”.

RTÉ also pointed out that Krishna Thapa, director of a recognised Nepalese charity, Voice of Children, was present during two of the three interviews complained of by Mr Ó Searcaigh.

Last night, Mr Thapa said none of the people in the documentary who made allegations of sexual impropriety against the poet were forced to make any statement. However, Mr Thapa said he was aware Mr Ó Searcaigh had offered rewards and put pressure on the interviewees to withdraw original statements.

Ms Ní Chianáin said she also found no evidence of any substantial work supported by the poet in Nepal apart from the purchase of bicycles and clothes for young men, despite repeated requests to Mr Ó Searcaigh for such information.

RTÉ said it was also continuing to engage with Michael Ó Conghaile of Cló Iar-Chonnachta, Mr Ó Searcaigh’s publisher who owns the rights to most of the poet’s works, over the use of poems in the documentary. Mr Ó Conghaile indicated earlier this week that he had made a formal request for some poems to be removed from the programme.

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