Cathal Ó Searcaigh: Shifting the Blame

Who created a position of power for themselves in a poor, vulnerable community, and used it to extract sexual favours from young men?

Was it Neasa Ní Chianáin?

No. It was Cathal Ó Searcaigh. And yet, to read this disgraceful article in yesterday’s Irish Times, you’d imagine that Neasa Ní Chianáin was the real miscreant and that Cathal was no more than the well-meaning, bumbling old fool he likes to project himself as. A hapless poor old devil, taken advantage of by a cynical and manipulative film-maker who befriended him and then stabbed him in the back.

Let’s be clear about something here. If Cathal Ó Searcaigh didn’t routinely take young boys to his bedroom and have sex with them, there would be no story.

Neasa didn’t force Cathal to do this. He did it of his own volition, and confirmed it to Neasa on the record.

To repeat: Neasa Ní Chianáin did not take advantage of vulnerable young boys. Cathal Ó Searcaigh did that and Neasa caught him.

Now, one of the oldest and most dishonest tactics anyone can sink to is the ad hominem argument. Attacking the person instead of considering what they said. Shooting the messenger in this case.

Dermod Moore wrote such an article in yesterday’s Times, seeking to deflect attention away from Cathal Ó Searcaigh and onto the film-maker. The article, which reminds me of the way the Catholic bishops derided and denied every report and suggestion of clerical sex abuse, has much in common with Cathal’s earlier self-pitying and self-exculpatory statement: Cathal’s template for all future apologists, including Dermod Moore. It has the same cynicism. The same manipulative intent. The same denial. The same menace. The same implied threats. Let’s examine a few things Dermod says.

The collateral damage that has been caused, … is inestimable, leaving chaos and confusion in its wake, and a bitter polarisation.

Let’s be absolutely clear. The damage was not caused by Neasa making a movie. It was caused by Cathal screwing vulnerable boys. There would be no furore if Neasa had made a film about Cathal planting daffodils.

Her lamentable failure to enquire closer into the relationships he had with the young men in Kathmandu, while he was still in situ, means that we, as viewers, are not able to answer some crucial questions.

Firstly, roughly what proportion of those men in his coterie has he had sex with? This goes to the heart of his motives for being there in the first place – was he a sex tourist, masquerading as a philanthropist?

The proportion is irrelevant. What matters is that he does it at all. He admits to 50 or 60 sexual encounters with Nepalese boys, which seems to me a pretty good hit-rate for a middle-aged fat guy, wouldn’t you think? Jesus, with that kind of success, Cathal must have hit the jackpot. Everybody in Nepal must be gay.

Dermod wonders about the people who had sex with Cathal: what long-lasting effect did their relationship with him have?

He quotes Nareng saying he bought myself. He goes on to say that Nareng is now a 20-year-old college student who confidently denies visctimhood and admits to a continued physical relationship with his “best friend”

Dermod is failing to make a strong case for Cathal there: in my eyes, that boy’s volte face looks downright sinister, as if Nareng fears he might lose something unless he retracts.

Dermod doesn’t stop with Neasa. If there are names to be blackened, everyone is fair game. Talking about Ramesh, the hotel manager who alerted Neasa to Cathal’s activities, Dermod says his role seems to be more than that of a catalyst. Now, what kind of mealy-mouthed innuendo is that? What kind of cheap smear is too low for Dermod to sink to in defence of Cathal’s manipulations. Who will feel the wrath of his poison pen next, if they dare to question Cathal’s bona fides?

His professed concern for the welfare of the participants in the programme is hollow, and irrelevant. It’s also a cynical attempt to deflect attention away from his client. Whether Neasa got the boys’ consent is a discussion for another day and has no bearing on whether or not Cathal Ó Searcaigh abused their trust or their poverty.

But here’s where the real manipulation surfaces in Dermod’s article:

When Ó Searcaigh apologised in a statement for offending anyone with his “gay lifestyle and relationships”, I imagine he was referring to cruising. Largely alien to women’s experience, it is obviously not to Ó Searcaigh, who gave us the phrase ag crúsáil.

Nonsense. Nobody complained about Cathal’s homosexuality. It’s a red herring and deserves to be ignored as such. This is about abusing the trust of vulnerable young people in a vulnerable society, and it would make no difference if the young people were female.

Dionysian and transgressive, it is sex outside of relationship, the hunt for mutual pleasure, perhaps even mutual exploitation. A camaraderie and sense of fair play between players in this male “sport” of sex is common, although risk itself is part of the attraction. It is not a “gay” phenomenon, men of all ages and orientations do it, whether partnered or not.

You’d wonder what kind of monastic life Dermod thinks the rest of us have led. Let me reiterate: I don’t care what sort of sexual activity Cathal, Dermod or anyone else has, as long as it doesn’t involve abuse, though I have to admit the Dionysian and transgressive bit sounds interesting. I must try that sometime but it still has nothing to do with Cathal’s Nepalese cavortings.

I’m glad to see that the article continues with something relevant to the controversy:

… cruising in a poor country as a rich westerner, even one with such a sophisticated culture as Nepal’s, throws up all sorts of fraught ethical and emotional questions; not because of the sex, but because of the money, and the power and responsibility attached to it.

Exactly. It’s about Cathal, not about the film.

Until Ó Searcaigh understands the boundaries he has transgressed, and there is no sign yet that he does, he will fail to understand the reason his friend became his nemesis, and why she has seemingly spent the last two years engineering his downfall.

Whoops! Hold on there just a second. Engineering his downfall, you say? How was that now, exactly? Did Neasa drive young boys to his room with a whip? Did she perhaps pull out his dick for him, against his will, and wield his mighty member like an avenging Jedi sabre?

For God’s sake, this is just nonsense. Cathal did the screwing and Neasa did the reporting. It’s as simple as that, and to end an article, as Dermod does in the following terms, is no more than a painful and embarrassing display of petulance:

The core issue in the film is the exercising of power in inappropriate ways to gratify one’s own desires.

But it can also be said that Ní Chianáin herself is guilty of the same thing, in the manner in which she has made her accusations. If one points a finger, so vehemently and so publicly, one must brace oneself for a thousand fingers to come pointing back.

That’s the polite Irish Times version of We‘ll find out where you live.

Polite, but a gutter threat all the same. Shame on you, Dermod.


Update: I see Dermod has closed comments on his site. He thinks 30 comments is too much material for anyone to read in one go. 30 comments, eh? Bless him. His action has nothing to do with stifling debate, or preventing people disagreeing with him, or the fact that he was getting an absolute pasting from the commenters. No. 30 comments is just too much. He’s overwhelmed.



A Poem For Cathal Ó Searcaigh

Cathal Ó Searcaigh’s Statement

Cathal Ó Searcaigh


Elsewhere :-

Robert Synnott

Damien Mulley

Fiche Focal


Scott de Buitléir

There’s an interesting analysis HERE of the various diversion tactics in use.

7 thoughts on “Cathal Ó Searcaigh: Shifting the Blame

  1. Bravo, Bock.
    Really well argued piece. I noticed the ad hominum fallacy also. Very old trick when your argument is unsound.
    The questions I asked myself were: Would this 50ish man have “scored” with even ONE 16ish boy if he met him on equal terms, say in a disco in Ireland? Maybe??
    Would he have “scored” with the 60ish that he managed in Nepal? Not a chance in Hell.
    He abused his position of power and wealth. He abused their position of innocence and trust.
    By the way, is anyone else thinking about the wife of the godson? A marriage of convenience, O Searcaigh dismissed it as…. Did you see her face when she looked at him? Hatred captured on film, and NO WONDER.

  2. Provoked out of my long-time-lurker status to say Amen to that superb and timely post. It’s shocking to witness the levels of dissembling and whataboutery that lard the ‘informed’ debate. Even if one were to impute the worst possible motives to Neasa Ní Chianáin, Ó Searcaigh’s actions remain questionable (I would say indefensible), and it is absolutely right that they be subject to close scrutiny. On a tangential issue – I didn’t realize that I had a problem with the notion of a body such as Aosdána until I read a shrill, poorly argued letter in the IT recently (all your usual suspects were there – the red herrings and the straw men) the main, and tired, argument of which was that this ‘outcry’ is fuelled by homophobia. I read to the end and saw that it was signed by a goodly number of that body’s members. It should surely be possible to profess loyalty and affection for a fellow member without indulging in special pleading and specious argument.

    I can’t bring myself to address Mr Moore’s article. Then again, I’m a woman and easily offended, and cruising is largely alien to my experience. I take it, then, that the whole unfortunate witch-hunt is being cheered on from the ditches by narrow-minded, matronly, Corkonian biddies whose sons, the solicitors, are drowning.

    Well I’m shocked, I tell you. Shocked. SHOCKED!


  3. I found the documentary a bit weird to be honest – shocked by the revelations but can’t understand why she didn’t drop the ‘Brogeen Follows the Magic Tune’ (God, that puts my age fair and square) attitude and cover it like the story of exploitation that it was. I can’t be having with adults making ‘heroes’ of other adults – to make a hero out of someone you usually have to buy in to ignoring whole portions of their character and her subsequent slow-dawning shock proves that.
    He gave his papers, writings etc., to the County Council about 7 years ago and, in return, he lives rent free for the rest of his natural. A grant of in excess of Euro 200,000 was/is allocated to extend the house and turn it into a Tyrone Gutherie- style writers retreat. The sum of 12,000 Euro is the cnuas from Aosdana which is paid annually for five years in order to help writers devote themselves to their work and not have to do other stuff in order to support themselves. Can’t see that the writers/retreat centre will become reality now.
    What I find most depressing about this story is the amount of people who must have been very aware of COS’s predelictions all along – and also the fact that the object of his first love, now a married man, has been easily identified within the local community and has had COS pin his dysfunctional life on the fact that this man did not reciprocate his love. Not only women can bunny boil!
    So much of the way COS behaves, with the self focus and the being taken care of and having real life human ‘toys’ to occupy his nights and which he discards so easily, is so childlike. And possibly, for that reason too, he is likely to be total meltdown and has no facility to understand the outrage. The ones who really need their arses kicked are the Aosdana folk who have weighed in like furious parents with all the ‘these rules do not apply to my lad and you have ulterior motives for blaming him’ attitude that furious parents use.
    Sorry for long post. Will return to lurking now!

  4. It is this so called childlike naivety that he portrays that sticks in my gullet. As if this allows him to be unaccountable for his actions.

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