Cathal Ó Searcaigh – Remove his poetry from the syllabus

Edit: Apologies for the glaring omission of Bock’s coverage of Cathal Ó Searcaigh. Bock’s been covering this for a good while.

So now that more people have seen the documentary about Cathal Ó Searcaigh there’s a greater number of opinions out there than there were at first. Suzy has pointed out her thoughts on the matter and I think she was quite balanced about it and dare I say it quite politically correct. While it seemed obvious the documentary maker turned what would have probably been a rather bland docu into a sensationalist piece and got a huge amount of attention, the most damning thing about all of this is the way gay people and those in the Arts have twisted the stark reality of the situation and common logic to apologise and forgive the predatory acts of Cathal Ó Searcaigh. This guy is a serial abuser and the documentary, rough as it was, showed how he got whatever he wanted due to the massive power imbalance between him and the boys he “treated”.

Dermod Moore’s piece in Hotpress defending Ó Searcaigh is a wonderful example of going to extreme lengths to forgive his actions while scolding anyone who shouted “abuser” at him. Comparing his plight to the persecutions of Oscar Wilde and Roger Casement. Christ. Dermod could well move on to doing PR for the Catholic Church abuse tribunals after this but those priests weren’t gay so maybe not, they were paedophiles, whereas Cathal Ó Searcaigh isn’t. See you’re not a paedophile once the boys are past puberty, then you’re a pederast. A sure that’s ok then. From his article:

The answer may be far more complex and uncomfortable: this man, like many men and indeed some women, has a form of sexuality that is transgressive, and seeks to push the limits of desire as far as he can. At its root may indeed be a broken heart, as Ní Chianán alludes to in the film, and a desire to avoid the painful feelings of being dependent, of being possessive and obsessive. But it may also be driven by delight in pleasure, a love of beauty and gentleness, and a lack of shame about sex.

That’s one of those things that pisses me off with so many in the gay community. All for equality once it’s positive but point any flaws with gay people and you’re homophobic. We’re all equal, except you can never speak ill of us because then you’re some kind of bigot and you don’t understand. Is it cos I is gay? No it’s because you’d be put in jail if you tried that crap in Ireland.

There’s a follow up article in the Irish Times from Dermod Moore too which is all about attacking the documentary maker and her character while quickly pointing out that Ó Searcaigh didn’t know any better. Poor thing.

While the Department of Education have said his poetry is to stay, should they really let it? The free advertising and potential future sales of his work from being on the syllabus could give the guy more money again to “treat” all those boys he likes to control. Abuse and power imbalances were exploited with the money made from his work already. Should it be continued to be endorsed?

28 Responses to “Cathal Ó Searcaigh – Remove his poetry from the syllabus”

  1. I think you probably want to make it more explicitly clear that you’re soliciting opinions about whether the Department of Education should be encouraging financial contributions to Ó Searcaigh in the form of royalties.

    Otherwise this could^H^H^H^H definitely will turn into a crapflood about whether we should ban works containing things we wouldn’t approve of… and you don’t want 200 comments about the ages of Romeo and Juliet. Or any of Padraig Pearse’s more suspicious scribblings.

    I assume you don’t want any of that, anyway.

  2. Damien says:

    And I said ban things based on their content where exactly? Perhaps people who read the post aren’t as dumb as you seem to suggest they are. ^H^H^H^H ^H^H^H^H ^H^H^H^H whatever

  3. Maman Poulet says:

    I’m far from politically correct on this issue – in fact the silence you hear from some combined with condemnation from others is the PC rush to get to the altar without admitting that what O’Searcaigh did (or what I perceive him to have done – cos we have not heard from him yet – the filmmaker didn’t include much of his response in the documentary – funny that) happens in the George, Loafers and other not so public places in Ireland every weekend of the year.

    Intergenerational Relationships, power imbalances, domestic violence, rape, assault, abuse, cruising, cottaging, open relationships, saunas, all happen in gay culture (and in society in general) but We don’t talk about these issues or want them mentioned – not when we are trying to look straight (aka equality in some quarters!)

    I’d love to hear some realism on this issue – ie. the fact that Chickenhawks (yes folks we have a word for it in the ‘gay world’) exist and what do we do to deal with the issues – and actually I think that’s what Dermod has named but some are too busy with the sanitiser or the shovel to bury it and just shouting ‘it’s abuse’ without admitting that it’s a reality here too.

    I look forward to the close analysis being paid to all poets on the curriculum and their backgrounds – it might be a bit bare at the end of such an exercise. But the calls to remove him are again far too easy – remove and don’t talk about him or what he does – that’s what we’ve been too busy doing.

  4. JL Pagano says:

    There are two topics at play here – the gay community and how it is perceived, and the rights and wrongs of what appears on the Leaving Cert syllabus.

    While I suppose I’m not exactly in a position to give an opinion on the former, I would be inclined to agree with Damien’s aversion to the point of view “All for equality once it’s positive but point any flaws with gay people and you’re homophobic”.

    As for the latter, I have two children who are doing their Leaving in the coming years, and rather than bang on every door I can find to complain about the personal behaviour of authors on the curriculum, I’d much rather find a way to engage my kids of the issue in a language they’ll understand. I’d like to think maybe they’ll be able to make up their own minds rather than have the grown ups gang up and hide the work away from them as if they’re some kind of simpletons.

  5. VincentH says:

    Madam P, has put the finger on the issue with chickenhawk. That he is gay is not the issue, had he been hetro and out hunting girls of the same age, the same feeling of distaste would sour the mouths of many. But the film left the issue hanging in mid-air. We are invited to draw conclusions, but never did it meet what might be termed a body of evidence from first hand. Had it done so, we would not be having all these debates.
    We Irish like our hatchet jobs, but we do not like cruelty. If one is going to dispatch someone, then do it, with honesty. None of this innuendo and fifth party comment, where he is expected to damn himself from his own mouth with whatever he says. If you are going to do it, do it properly. The central issue here is not requiring a Mahon to unravel.

  6. […] with in Ireland. Also, a lot more people have said more eloquently what I feel about it. However, Damien has raised a point about whether the man’s work should remain on the school syllabus or not and to be honest, I’m not sure there’s any easy […]

  7. Dermod Moore says:


    Your polarisation of this complex debate is most unhelpful. If, as you say, someone shouts “abuser” – the most damaging thing one can accuse anyone of being in Ireland at the minute, so bruised are we by our experience of the church having behaved so satanically towards children in the past – I am perfectly entitled to question the motives of the person doing the shouting, and point out that what she saw might have been her misinterpretation of a man who cruises. I say “might” because, after the shouting has died down, I still do not have enough information to judge.

    I have not “forgiven” his actions – because I cannot make out what has happened myself. Her film is so biased, I need more information, more context, more light on the matter, less heat. Some of the boys speak for themselves two years later defending him in this DVD – their voices really need to be heard.

    As for being a PR man for the Catholic Church? I can’t believe you would say that. Whose attacking who, Damien, here, and how savagely? Why?

    In the first piece you quote of mine, I talk about the answers being complex and uncomfortable – that, apparently, “pisses you off”. By all means examine the behaviour of the man – he did after all invite the biographer to make the film about him – and if the result is damaging, well, he brought it upon himself, just as Casement and Wilde did. That’s my point. Nowhere have I levelled the charge of homophobia – although others have, against this disparaging tale of a “fairy”.

    Far from being averse to criticism of homosex, I really wish this film had been unflinchingly curious about Ó Searcaigh’s sexuality, in the two winters the film-maker was with him. As I said in my first article, too often we men insulate ourselves from women’s perspectives on relationships and sexuality, often to our detriment, and perhaps that’s what Ó Searcaigh was unconsciously seeking from his friend. I have over the years I’ve been writing the Bootboy column been fairly relentless at times in criticizing gay men and how we relate to each other, especially sexually, and perhaps one thing that has influenced my criticism of Ní Chianán’s documentary is that I’d have been far more rigorous and forensic in examining the contradictions of being a man with an exquisitely sensitive nature and yet, at the same time, have such strong sexual desires for young adults.

    My Irish Times article attacks the way she made the film, not her character. As for Ó Searcaigh not knowing any better? That’s the point. I don’t think he does.

  8. John says:

    Whether he was gay, straight or bisexual is irrelevant. A 50 year old man screwing 16 year olds is not normal. He travelled to Nepal to do something that is illegal and immoral IMHO here.

    A 50 year old affluent male travelling to a poorer country to pay for sexual services from teenagers is predatory. The fact that it was boys is not the issue, it would be equally predatory if it was teenage girls.

    In Nigeria the legal age of consent is 13 (although Male – Male relationships are illegal). Does that make it ok for me as a 39 year old male to get on a plane, fly to Nigeria, use my relative wealth to the local populace to take a 13 year old to bed?

    Does it hell.

    Once more German Judges have taken a straightforward and sensible apporach.

    In Germany, sexual intercourse is legal from the age of 14 in most cases. An exception is when the older partner is aged over 18 and is “exploiting a coercive situation” or offering compensation, in which case the younger partner must be over 16. In addition, it is illegal for someone aged over 21 to have sex with someone under 16 if they “exploit the victim’s lack of capacity for sexual self-determination”.

    And thats the nub, he was using his postion and power to exploit children/young adults


  9. I for one felt your post was pretty much on the money.

    Groups that have (or still are) persecuted do tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived threat, real or imagined. In this case I have no doubt that the publicity surrounding the issue could provoke homophobic reactions and the gay community is right to react to that specific issue, but there can be no defending pederasty, even if it does happen all the time and has an innocuous sounding nickname. I was pretty ambivalent on the retention of his works on the curriculum, but your point is a reasonable one, albeit fraught with political land mines.

  10. James says:

    I missed the documentary unfortunately. A couple of things though – one is that I don’t think his poetry should be removed from the syllabus, unless it should never have been there to begin with. A lot of Leaving Cert poets, e.g., Philip Larkin, are weirdos and some of them are very nasty characters. This sounds like another one of those Michael Jackson cases – “regardless whether it is illegal or not, it is just wrong”- but I don’t want us taking the law into our own hands and removing the guy’s poetry from schools unless some new meaning in the poems themselves has suddenly become apparent that makes them unsuitable. Again I haven’t seen the documentary yet so I can’t speak authoritatively, but it does sound like there is too much being made of the “gay” thing, would it have made a difference if these were 16 year old girls in Vietnam?

  11. tipster says:

    What particularly irritates me is the silence from the lgb organisations. No statement from GLEN, the NLGF, or any of the gay helplines pointing out the things they should have been pointing out but which were left to the Rape Crisis Centres to point out. In the mainstream media, as far as a I know, the running from my community on this has been two individual journalists (Quentin Fottrell in the Irish Times, Brian Finnegan on the Joe Duffy Show) and letter writers.

  12. Damien says:

    @Dermod If this issue upset you so much, why did you only make your opinion public once Hotpress paid you for your article? There seems to be a bit of a disconnect there.

  13. Dermod Moore says:


    You haven’t answered my question about why you attacked me in the unwarranted way you have. I would like you to account for yourself, because I think it’s important. If I can understand something of why you have been so unfair to me, perhaps I might understand something about the way this whole saga has been so divisive.

    My Hot Press column was written weeks in advance of the RTE broadcast, because I asked Vinegar Hill for a review copy as soon as I read Kathy Sheridan’s article in the Times. As a Hot Press columnist, not as a blogger. My opinion was available weeks ago in print in Hot Press, for the princely sum of €3.50. I republished it on my blog on the day the documentary was aired, believing it was the most ethical and responsible choice, not to mention sensible – too many people were commenting without having seen the film. Any other blogger, who also has a job with a magazine or newspaper, would have done the same thing, I suggest.

    Am I to apologise to you and the blogosphere for daring to suggest that my opinion might be worth paying something for, once in a while? Is the profession of journalism the object of your attack?

    No, I really think it’s just me you’re attacking. Enough, already. Explain yourself or desist.

    @tipster – your community also includes me and David Norris, whether you like it or not. Indeed, whether I like it or not.

  14. Damien says:

    Desist? I’m sorry Dermod but if you want to censor me, it won’t happen.

  15. Concubhar Ó Liatháín says:

    It seems to me, Damien, that you’re the aspiring censor around here, if the headline on this thread is to be the yardstick.

    I too think Cathal Ó Searcaigh has questions to answer but I don’t think he was given a fair chance to answer them in the Fairytale documentary and is unlikely to get a fair hearing in the current climate.

    I don’t believe in trial by media -and I especially don’t believe in kangaroo court by media, which is what this has become in my opinion.

    If RTÉ is to be believed that it is concerned about the exploitation of young people in poverty stricken countries like Nepal, perhaps it should desist from advertising childrens’ toys made in sweatshops in India and elsewhere from August to December?

  16. Dermod: contradictions of being a man with an exquisitely sensitive nature and yet, at the same time, have such strong sexual desires for young adults

    Two things about that extract are appalling: your grammar and your denial of what Cathal was up to.

    Here’s a third thing I find appalling: your ad hominem attack on the film-maker in today’s paper. I was going to write about it on my own site, but as Damien ahs brought it up, I might as well say it here.

    The girl you attacked didn’t go to Nepal with a bag of money for sex with poor boys. She just made a picture.

    It was Cathal who went to Nepal with a bag of money for sex with poor vulnerable boys.

    Now. I hope that clears up the confusion for you. Cathal was screwing the poor boys. Not Neasa.

    Not hard to figure out.

  17. Dermod Moore says:


    Rights bring responsibilities. I am not trying to take away your right to free speech (as if anyone could silence you) I am asking you to take responsibility for your attack on me and explain it.

  18. Thanks for the link Damien.

    I think this issue is far bigger than Cathal o Searcaigh. It’s about denial, obfuscation and implied menace, much like the sort of thing we saw when the Catholic hierarchy first sought to stifle uncomfortable questions about clerical behaviour.

    The new hierarchy seems to be a ragtag affiliation of self-proclaimed artists and mainstream journalists, who have now sunk to shifting the focus away from Cathal and onto the film-maker. Who’d have thought we’d see classic gutter journalism in the Irish Times!

    I wrote about it today, here.

    The difference these days is that they can’t shout you down like they used to.

  19. Tom Young says:

    Broadly speaking this entire issue can be summarised in one word: paedophile. That word meaning and adult who is sexually attracted to young people or minors – regardless of their sexual orientation. Harping on about equality, rights, orientation is irrelevant in my mind. Traveling to avoid the law is something people do.

  20. Twenty Major says:

    The new hierarchy seems to be a ragtag affiliation of self-proclaimed artists and mainstream journalists, who have now sunk to shifting the focus away from Cathal and onto the film-maker.

    It is just par for the course these days. Instead of anybody accepting any responsibility for anything they do they have a coterie of friends and hangers-on who will muddy the waters and get people focussing on anything but the issue at hand.

    Bertie does it all the time, celebrities do it all the time (witness Mel Gibson deflecting his anti-semitism by moving the issue to his ‘alcoholism’), Cathal o Searcaigh’s friends are doing it now. Perhaps there’s a bit of self-preservation involved, they might feel slightly culpable because they helped raised the money he then used to procure young boys with.

    The issue is not homosexuality (despite what Norris and others would have you believe), it’s not about the film maker, it’s about a morally bankrupt individual who uses his relative wealth and status to take advantage of young boys.

    If this was a 50 year old male poet going to a poor country and buying friendship and sex from young girls or women there’d be fucking murder, and rightly so.

    He knows fine well that what he’s doing is wrong. By the letter of the law it may not be but this Peter Pan bollocks is just that. He’s a grown man, an intelligent man and what he’s done is appalling.

  21. […] have to say, I’m really enjoying the commentary and analysis that Damien and Bock are providing on the Ó Searcaigh case. They are both doing a very fine job. They really […]

  22. […] over on Damien Mulley’s Blog about the coverage and spin given to the recent documentary on Cathal Ó Searcaigh. I haven’t seen the documentary in question, so I’m in no position to comment on how Mr […]

  23. […] Damien Mulley addthis_url = ‘’; addthis_title = ‘Cathal+%26Oacute%3B+Searcaigh%3A+sHIFTING+tHE+bLAME’; addthis_pub = ”; Stumble it! You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. […]

  24. Isn’t it ironic that this incredibly wealthy benefactor can’t afford a house back home, but has to rely on the Council for accommodation?

    Jesus, maybe the Donegal county manager should demand a quick shag!

  25. Adam says:

    Unfortunately Dermod has decided he doesn’t have time to continue the “complex debate” he was so adamant we should have on this topic and has closed his comments.

    Dermod – this is probably the best place to get this point to you, bar an email, so let me respond to one of your accusations/distortions here:

    The experiences and opinions of Ó Searcaigh’s partners are valid in this issue but they are not what a society, community or judicial system should base their opinions and actions upon.

    At no point did I suggest that the Nepalese boys’ experience is invalid or worthless to the debate and for you to suggest this is a complete distortion of my point – I’m not worried, though, people can read what I said for themselves.

    I am disappointed that you decided to spin what I said on more than one occasion and cut off the debate you have said people should have – all under the pretence of it being too long of a discussion to follow.

  26. In My Grumble Opinion says:

    This news story has gripped me more than any other I can remember – nothing to do with Ó Searcaigh’s actions, rather, it’s because of the response from a number of journalists and pundits that I have found quite troubling.

    This is my first internet post. I read sluggerotoole regularly but have never been moved to comment. However, today I am a worried man. And I noticed that Damien, Bock and Dermod were in the same room, so to speak.

    Living in London, I normally read the English papers and occasionally the Irish broadsheets, when I get the chance. It was an article by McKittrick in the Independent (13 March) first alerted me to what he described as “support” for the poet from David Norris, the organizers of the Galway Festival and Margaretta D’Arcy who said “his friends are bound to suffer desperate hurt to their self-esteem, a sense of deepest betrayal, irreparable emotional damage; and this will be the real abuse.”

    I remember thinking to myself, people rushing to defend Ó Searcaigh may come to regret doing so. I subscribe to Hotpress,ie because of McCann’s articles and was surprised to read Dermod’s article, and I was disappointed to have helped pay for. But Hotpress is an opinion-driven publication. Did the Irish Times print other, less Ó Searcaigh-phile, opinions, or just Dermod’s?

    Dermod sounds like an intelligent chap: asking lots of questions, challenging assumptions, writing with passion. And I think he is also clever enough to eventually mull over his own writings and wish to himself that before taking the debate in lots of interesting directions, he had first dealt firmly and squarely with the central issue, that which Damien and Bock have criticised him for avoiding: namely, that it is wrong to run the risk of hurting other people emotionally by having sex with them if you cannot be completely sure that they aren’t just doing what you want to curry favour with you – is it what they really want too? It is difficult to predict what your actions will have on other people, of course, but it is right to err on the side of caution, especially if you are much older than them and in a good position to give them things they want or need.

    I suspect Dermod agrees that the poet may have been exploiting some of the boys. In fact, after much searching I found Dermod writing: “[Ó Searcaigh] certainly needs to address the issues raised in the film about
    exploitation, and come to terms with the implications of being a rich
    Westerner in a poor country, and how that is a perilous path.” Dermod’s massive flaw has been not stating unreservedly and prominently that he recognises Ó Searcaigh may have been doing things that were wrong.

    This is the crux. Ó Searcaigh didn’t think what he was doing was wrong – and from his statement still doesn’t. And neither, it seems, did the people who came out in support of him. I think the poet and Dermod will both reflect differently when they take time to think carefully about the importance of erring on the side of caution and trying hard to make sure you don’t exploit others.

    I am still trying to work out why Dermod’s arguments have such a defensive tone. Dermod, could you please tell me more what you think is right and wrong when it comes to sexual relations – this is where the debate lies.

    Perhaps the documentary could have been better made. Perhaps all the people he had sex didn’t feel exploited and won’t regret it. Perhaps we all have to think more about who we might be exploiting by our actions.

    I take my hat off to Neasa Ní Chianáin for getting people talking and thinking. I hope Ó Searcaigh and some of the people who jumped to his defence have a good talk and a good think. And the Leaving Cert teachers and students have a good talk and a good think – anyone interested in the education of young people should make sure his work stays firmly on the syllabus and his life choices are discussed and debated.

    Ultimately, we must wonder why so many people publicly defended Ó Searcaigh. I cannot imagine it happening in the press here in London. Can anyone tell me more about those who did and why they did?

  27. There’s a cosseted cabal called Aosdána: the smuggorati of the artistic world, who seem to believe they’re outside and above the mundane concerns of little people like you and me. Though we Irish citizens subvent them and grant them tax-free status, we dare not question them.

    Never mind Cathal Ó Searcaigh. Look at this arrogant élite who would seek to silence you should look too hard at one of their number. These are the new secular priesthood, who took the baton of hubris from the staggering old bishops, and whose arrogance, if anything, is even greater.