By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The partner of an award-winning American gay writer who is in a critical condition after being badly beaten in Sligo has appealed for funds to help pay his flight back from Dublin to a hospital in Pennsylvania.
Robert Drake, 36, was staying in Sligo researching a novel set in Ireland when he was found badly beaten in his apartment on Jan. 31. The gardai arrested two men for questioning on Wednesday.
Dr. Scott Pretorius, who is a registrar at University Hospital, Pennsylvania, visited Drake in Beaumont Hospital earlier this month and said he believes the attack was a gay-related incident.
G_rdaf said two men had been questioned about the incident and a file was being prepared for the director of public prosecutions.
They would make no comment on reports the men claimed Drake had made sexual advances toward them.
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Pretorius said he has dealt with many critically ill patients but he was completely unprepared for the prospect of seeing the person he loves most in the world in such a serious condition and on a ventilator.
“It is a terrible thing to see happen to someone you know. Robert has not regained significant consciousness. He has not been able to speak.
“His injuries are very serious. Robert could die of these injuries. It is also possible he could make a full recovery although I would expect that to occur over the course of months to years.
“What I think is probably most likely is that he will recover somewhat but be significantly neurologically impaired. Unfortunately the portion of the brain that is most severely affected is that part that deals with language and speech. For a writer this could be a devastating injury.”
Pretorius, who made his appeal for funds on RTE, said Drake received a very bad beating and “it appears that these men were trying to kill him”.
Pretorius said that before the attack on Drake he had a great affection for Ireland and its people. He had undertaken a bike tour of the west, including Sligo, in the past.
“Other than to retrieve Robert I doubt that either he or I shall return,” Pretorius said.
An incident during his two-week visit to Drake earlier this month has not improved Pretorius’s view of Ireland.
When he and some of Drake’s Irish friends left Beaumont Hospital to get some food in a local McDonalds, it was robbed by two men in ski masks armed with sawn-off shotguns.
“They ordered us onto the floor and told us they would kill us if we moved. It was the last thing I wanted to see having just seen this very dear friend beaten nearly to death.”
He said he had been in daily touch with Drake during his stay in Ireland and he had not indicated he was apprehensive because he was gay.
“It is hard to know why anyone would want to hurt Robert. He is a kind and generous person, a Quaker, a pacifist, not a violent man at all.
“Robert is a leading figure in the world of gay and lesbian letters. He edits a series of anthologies called His and Hers about new fiction from gay and lesbian writers.”
Drake’s most recent book is a series essays on 100 important works of gay male literature. His first novel dealt with a gay man’s response to the death of his partner as a result of a gay-bashing.
Attacks on gays and lesbians are extremely rare in Ireland. In fact, Ireland is among the most tolerant of countries in relation to gay and lesbian issues. And, unlike in New York, gays and lesbians are allowed to march freely in St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Ireland.