SU-hired entertainer ‘hypnotised’ female students into lap dancing – claims

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) president, Domhnall McGlacken-Byrne, received a lap dance from one of several allegedly hypnotised female students at a class rep training weekend at the beginning of this academic year, Trinity News has learned. The incident occurred during a hypnosis show performed by entertainer James McCoy – who SU Ents officer, Finn Murphy, says was hired on the recommendation of sabbatical officers in other universities  – on October 18th.

Trinity News understands that the student in question, a 19-year-old class rep in her first year of college, brought McGlacken-Byrne to a chair in front of the function room stage in Crowne Plaza, Dundalk, where the training weekend was held, after she and other “hypnotised” female students were asked by the entertainer to pick a male observer out of the audience, sit on their knees and dance provocatively.

The student told Trinity News that she was awarded the prize of “best lap dance” by SU education officer, Katie Byrne, during a mock award ceremony the next morning, though this has been denied by both McGlacken-Byrne and Murphy, who say that the award was in fact for “Domhnall’s biggest fan”.

The student also told Trinity News that she did not feel fully lucid during the incident, which she said lasted for “about a minute”. Unlike other hypnotised students, though, she said she remembers the set. “I knew that I was there, but I felt like I had to do what I was being asked to do [by the hypnotist],” she said. “I knew what I was doing, but I felt like I had to do these things.” However, she said that she found the episode “quite funny” and added that the SU sabbatical officers have always been “really nice” to her.

McGlacken-Byrne, who some sources have said looked uncomfortable during the incident, this weekend confirmed that he took part in the performance. “People were laughing,” he said. “Your one and I laughed about it afterwards… I didn’t really care.” He told Trinity News that he made sure to check up on the student after, but added that he felt she had enjoyed it and that the incident was one of several uncomfortable portions of the show.

One segment that had particularly worried him, he said, involved the hypnotist asking people to imagine that they were watching a film that he eventually tried to convince them was a pornographic video. Participants were then asked to convey their thoughts on the imagined film to the crowd. McGlacken-Byrne feared that someone was “going to reveal that they were gay, who hadn’t perhaps done that [before].”  He said he watched the event “with a ‘worst case scenario’ hat on from beginning to end” because he understood that “it’s the sort of thing where everything is your fault if it goes wrong.”

The hypnotist was also booked to perform at an  event during TCDSU Mental Health Week the following week. However, he was asked to “tone down” this routine after his performance at the class rep training weekend, according to McGlacken-Byrne, who claims to have told the entertainer: “You didn’t go there last week and it went well, but I felt like at times last week it could have gone wrong, so could you temper it a bit?”

In a statement to Trinity News, Finn Murphy added: “The problem at the end of the day was that the hypnosis seemed ‘too real’ and I think in general people are uncomfortable with the idea of another person having control over their actions, which is totally fair. To be honest, before it started I didn’t think it was going to work at all. Then when people started doing things it shocked us and we then had to tell the hypnotist to calm it down.”

When contacted, James McCoy claimed that he has “no recollection” of many of the sections of that night’s show that have come under criticism. He said that he had only asked female students to “sit on [male audience members’] knees” and that this segment was for “comic value”. He denied that asking someone, allegedly under hypnosis, to dance provocatively on someone’s knee amounted to inappropriate conduct. “Santa Claus asked people to sit on his knees – it doesn’t get more family orientated than that,” he said.

However, other attendees at the training weekend have since described being disturbed by the hypnotist’s set. “I think it was horrifically inappropriate,” one audience member told Trinity News. “He didn’t consider that there might be people of sexual orientations that weren’t heterosexual among the crowd or that some of us may be in relationships. He also didn’t make the male ‘volunteers’ display any such openly sexual behaviour.” Others were more unsettled by the hypnotists’ jokes about audience members’ physical appearances, which included inappropriate remarks about one class rep’s weight.

The hypnotist had allegedly said at the beginning of the show that audience members would still be in control of their actions when hypnotised. However, this has been disputed by at least two female students who participated in the set, who have reported suffering memory loss immediately after allegedly being hypnotised.

One class rep, who said she had “barely touched a drop” before the event, claimed to not remember “a single moment” of the show. “The only thing I can compare it to is sleep paralysis, where you’re aware of what’s going on but you have no control over your body,” she said. The participant added: “My initial feelings [after the event] were ones of anxiousness, then embarrassment as details of what ‘I’ had done emerged.” Another participant claiming to have suffered memory loss commented: “I do remember about 60% of things but I couldn’t remember what order they came in. I could remember dancing on more than four or five boys during one song anyway, but I could only point out two at most.”

Additional reporting by Catherine Healy.

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