Postpone showing of film on poet, says Norris

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SEANAD REPORT:DAVID NORRIS (Ind) called for the showing of the film Fairytale of Kathmandu to be postponed until a full investigation by those qualified in the analysis of film had established the truth or falsehood of the techniques used in its production and the conclusions reached.

The forum in which this should be done was the Oireachtas Committee on Communications.

Mr Norris said the film purported to document the exploitation of young men in Nepal by the Donegal poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh.

"I have seen this work and I have grave concerns about the motives and methods employed. We are entitled by the spending of public money on it to know the truth, wherever it leads."

Mr Norris said an attempt was being made to create such a firestorm of hostile publicity that justice might never retrospectively be done. The film had been selectively leaked to quarters where it could be calculated to do most damage and most dangerously inflame opinion, he said.

"I am aware of the existence of a smear campaign against any who dare raise their voice to ask these questions. I am aware also of possible damage to my own standing in this community that I love. But I have chosen to make this intervention in what I consider to be the most appropriate place, the free parliament of the Irish people, because I love justice and truth even more than I fear any misunderstanding of my motives in so doing."

Despite denials, there had clearly been systematic creative editing.

"Moreover, the most disturbing image in the film is the sequence showing Mr Ó Searcaigh lovingly straightening the tie of what appeared to be a 14 or 15-year-old schoolboy with a satchel on his back. This is Narang. He is indeed boyish-looking but he is a 20-year-old physics student in a third-level college and his words need to be heard. He was 18 at the time of the film."

In an interview voluntarily given, this man alleged that he had been told he had been abandoned by the poet. He was naturally angry and he claimed to have been pressurised to give the answers the film-makers wanted.

"Calls have been made for Ó Searcaigh's poetry to be removed from the academic syllabus, the local authority grants for his house to be withdrawn and for him to be drummed out of Aosdána.

"Yet gloriously the artists of Ireland have supported him as they previously did in the case of Oscar Wilde. This is because they have a unique insight into the processes of works of creation and of destruction. I should make it clear that I support the brave letter by the artists in The Irish Times," Mr Norris added.

Cathaoirleach Pat Moylan told Mr Norris he could raise the matter with the chairman of the committee.

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A working group had been established to advance the Judicial Council Bill, Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan told the House during the report stage debate on the Defamation Bill.

Mr Lenihan said he had received certain information from the Chief Justice. The working group comprised a nominee of the department and of the Chief Justice. "I am now optimistic that the Bill can be finalised."

A Government amendment to the Defamation Bill would ensure that where an apology was made by a defendant in a defamation action, it would be given the same or similar prominence that had been given to the original defamatory statement, Mr Lenihan said.

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