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Ulster poet shrugs off teen boy sex furore

Shamed Irish-language poet Cathal O Searcaigh has dismissed the controversy that has dogged him since he admitted having sex with teenage boys whom he was financially assisting in Nepal.

The Donegal poet was speaking at the long-delayed opening of an artists' retreat adjoining his home in the foothills of Mount Errigal.

In a deal struck with Donegal County Council before the broadcasting of the controversial documentary 'Fairytale of Kathmandu', O Searcaigh donated his archives to the county in return for living rent-free in the adjoining cottage for the remainder of his life.

But not one of the 29 elected members of Donegal County Council attended yesterday's decidedly low- key opening of the €260,000 facility that has been funded by Donegal County Council, Udaras na Gaeltachta and the Arts Council.

When contacted, several of the councillors said they had commitments to other engagements. However, one -- who asked not to be named -- cited "moral reasons" for not being there.

"I just don't feel in good conscience I could be there. I feel he took advantage of his position with these young vulnerable people," the councillor said.

In the documentary, made by locally based film-maker Neasa Ni Chiannain, and in subsequent interviews, O Searcaigh openly admitted having sex with impoverished teenagers whom he was assisting financially, but he has denied any wrongdoing.

"It is very easy to start a controversy about someone. You can edit anything to suit you," he said yesterday.

The state-of-the-art building will house his own original manuscripts, an extensive personal collection of books and visual art works.

The poet said he hoped Damhlann an Ghleanna would be used as a public asset for the many artists and writers in the area.

"I don't think such a thing has been done with a living artist. It is probably quite rare in any country where someone opens up their house," he said.

O Searcaigh pointed out that most artists' archives were going out of the country to American universities.

"These archives are held here. I have given it all to the county," he said, adding that it was probably the first time a local authority had embarked on such a voyage with the arts.

"It shows some sympathy towards the Irish language in a world where it is eroding all the time," he said.

Cathal MacSuibhne, regional manager of Udaras na Gaeltachta, was present at the event, as well as members of the Donegal Earagail Arts Festival team. They scheduled the opening of the centre during the festival, which got under way at the weekend.

County librarian Eileen Burgess said there were 4,500 books stored in the new centre.

She added: "Quite a few of these books in the collection would be rare, some from international poets.

"Many of the art works have been given to Cathal over the years and he has donated them all as part of the same agreement with the council."

Source Irish Independent

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