Monday, February 18, 2008

Cathal O Searcaigh

You really have to laugh at Maire Mac an tSaoi and Pauline Bewick coming out to defend the sex tourist aspects of the poet Cathal O Searcaigh’s visits to Nepal. (And doing so on the execrable Joe Duffy Show of all places.) When a fat unprepossessing middle-aged man goes to a third world country and manages to have sex regularly with very young males or females (and 17 is very young) ones suspicions are aroused. What’s in it for them? Well in places like Thailand it’s obvious – it’s money. In Nepal there may have been no direct offers of money but there was certainly dispensing of largesse: books, English lessons, scholarships, bicycles, and in one case it seems a new house. In a deprived country O Searcaigh represented opportunity and escape to the young people he encountered. And he took full advantage of this for his sexual gratification. This is sex tourism.

I’m as liberal as the next man but I find this creepy and exploitive. And isn’t it alarming that the arts establishment (well OK certain prominent figures in the arts establishment) came out to bat for him? And isn’t it also alarming that he seemed not to see anything wrong with exploiting these vulnerable children? And don’t all those who contributed to O Searcaigh’s Nepal fund feel cheated now that they know that they were in fact paying for the improvement of his sex life?

And who cares if he’s gay or not – that’s a red herring. And no he should not be removed from school curricula. If you do that then you would have to make moral judgments about Shakespeare, Byron, Joyce etc. - and God knows what they got up to. Joyce's cloacal obsession, for example, might alarm some folk. Although Philip Larkin is probably a better comparison. All the biographical stuff that came out about his spanking magazines and misogynistic leanings do not render his poetry any less sublime – although some feminist academics and media whores would have us think otherwise. (Isn't that right Bonnie?)