Kevin Sharkey says debt turned him into a gigolo

At the height of the Celtic Tiger, the Killybegs artist Kevin Sharkey created a lifesize cow as his contribution to the Cow Parade, an art auction organised by U2 to raise money for charity.

At the height of the Celtic Tiger, the Killybegs artist Kevin Sharkey created a lifesize cow as his contribution to the Cow Parade, an art auction organised by U2 to raise money for charity.

He was in good company – other creators of the 150 cows in the parade included Bobby Ballagh, John Rocha and Graham Knuttel.

It had been a long climb to the top for the mixed-race, adopted kid born in Dublin and reared in Killybegs, Co. Donegal, but he had surely got there.

However in an article published by the Daily Mail last weekend his fall from grace, though, was even more spectacular and a great deal faster.

By 2010, he was so broke, he says he was forced to work as a gigolo, selling sex to males and females for a year. Now 50, the controversial artist, songwriter and former TV presenter says he turned to the sex industry in a desperate bid to survive.

Sharkey spoke candidly, “I was absolutely skint and had three dogs, two chickens and a rabbit to feed.

“I don’t have the formal education to fall back on by way of work. Being an artist has been my work for years but with the crisis, everything changed and I guess, in the end, work was work.”

With courageous honesty, he accepts that he could have waited tables or served bar in the tourist paradise of Ibiza where he lived. But he says: “In truth, there are other types of work I could have done.

But I wanted to work my own hours and be my own boss and €250 an hour beats the minimum wage.

“It’s all in the past now but I want to explain that people from all walks of life can find themselves in this position.

“I am just happy to have come out the other side safe and sound and with a clean bill of health, thank God.”