RTÉ intends to showÓ Searcaigh film despite appeals

RTÉ INTENDS to broadcast a controversial documentary on the poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh tonight despite a stand-off with his publisher…

RTÉ INTENDS to broadcast a controversial documentary on the poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh tonight despite a stand-off with his publisher over copyright and a request from his representative to postpone it.

Although the dispute between the broadcaster and Cló Iar-Chonnachta continued last night, an RTÉ spokesman said it hoped to resolve this in time for the broadcast. The stand-off arises from the film's use of a number of Ó Searcaigh's poems, in Irish and in translation.

After a separate meeting with the poet's representative yesterday, RTÉ rejected a request to postpone the film and have it re-edited to give a rounder picture of Ó Searcaigh's activities in Nepal.

The hour-long documentary, Fairytale of Kathmandu by Neasa Ní Chianáin, accompanies the Donegal poet to Nepal and raises concern about his relationships with young men there. Ó Searcaigh has criticised his portrayal in the film and has described it as "not only distorted and inaccurate but also very damaging to my reputation".


In a briefing document distributed to journalists before the meeting, his representative, Liam Gaskin, made allegations of misrepresentation and bias against the makers of the film.

Citing a new recording made in support of the poet by some of the young men featured in the film, Mr Gaskin said some participants were misled about the nature of the project, that the interview process was intimidating and that they had not signed release forms authorising the broadcast of their interviews.

He also claimed there were discrepancies in the Irish-English translations in the film.

RTÉ and film-makers Vinegar Hill last night rejected the allegations. In a detailed response to Mr Gaskin's 16-point document, RTÉ said it was satisfied that all interviews were conducted in a fair and transparent way.

"Krishna Thapa, director of Voice of Children, a recognised NGO based in Nepal, was present at two of the three interviews during which allegations were made," it added.

Moreover, the broadcaster said that because the film was a biographical picture of one man, release forms of the "peripheral subjects" would not be expected. "Cathal Ó Searcaigh himself chose which youths would be part of the film and he always explained to them that the film would be about his life in Nepal," the statement read.

"RTÉ is satisfied that the film is a fair and accurate portrayal of Cathal Ó Searcaigh's activities in Nepal. The producers adhered at all times to RTÉ programme maker's guidelines," the statement continued.

The translations from Irish to English were by the director herself, a native Irish speaker, and were subsequently checked by a professional translator of poetry who confirmed their accuracy, RTÉ added.

Ms Ní Chianáin has stressed that none of the young men was under 16, the age of consent in Nepal, but has expressed concern at the power disparity between young Nepali men and a relatively wealthy westerner.

At a briefing organised by Mr Gaskin yesterday, journalists were given a DVD recording in which some of the young men featured in the film express support for Mr Ó Searcaigh.

Speaking at the event, the poet's adopted son, Prem Prasad Timalsina, criticised the film, saying it gave a one-sided portrayal of the poet and ignored his charitable work in Nepal.

"I don't think it's a good way to make a film . . . He has done great things in Nepal. People love him there," said Mr Timalsina, a 34-year-old married man. "We think he is a great person."

Mr Gaskin said his client was openly gay and did not conceal that he "likes younger men". He admitted having sexual relationships with men in Nepal, but it was inaccurate, as the film allegedly implied, that he had "hordes of young men visiting his room on a regular basis".

"His morals and his attitude to sex is his own business. It's not illegal. Some of us may find it offensive, some of us may not," Mr Gaskin said.

"This man goes for three months of the year. He contributes to the people, he contributes to the culture, he has helped poets in this country and had them published. He has educated people. These are educated people - they're not poor idiots off the street. They're not being taken advantage of."

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic is an Assistant Editor of The Irish Times