About Irish PEN

PEN was founded by novelist Catherine Amy Dawson Scott who envisaged a dinner club where well-known writers could meet socially. The first dinner was held at the prestigious Café Royal in London in October 1921 with 41 writers in attendance, including Joseph Conrad, John Galsworthy and D.H. Lawrence.

Galsworthy became PEN’s first president and persuaded a reluctant George Bernard Shaw to join. Shaw complained about the irritation of the guinea-a-year fee and told Galsworthy to take twenty guineas and make him a life member.

Lady Augusta Gregory, the dramatist, folklorist and translator, set up the first branch of Irish PEN. However Irish writers of the time proved solitary and wary of discussing their work and it wasn’t until 1934, under the auspices of Lord Longford, Sean O’Faolain and Bulmer Hobson that it began to thrive. 

Today Irish PEN is developing new initiatives to make the organisation relevant to writers of all levels of experience and genres and works with PEN International on areas of international concern to writers.

The Irish PEN Lifetime Achievement Award is one of the most prestigious given to a writer in Ireland. Read more about the Award here.

Irish PEN have recently joined with members of WORD, a group of writers who meet at the Irish Writers Centre, to support PEN International’s  Freedom to Write Campaign.

Freedom of expression and solidarity among writers are at the heart of PEN. PEN started in the aftermath of World War One bringing writers together to express solidarity within and between recently warring nations. PEN quickly expressed this same solidarity by campaigning for freedom of expression for all writers and for individual writers who were silenced, harassed, imprisoned and murdered because they had the courage to write.

The Freedom to Write Campaign plans to take one action for each season during the coming year. These will be linked to other events such as the Nollaig na MBan in January, the PEN Dinner Empty Chair, the Day of the Imprisoned Writer in November and PEN International global actions.

Find out more about Freedom to Write and how you can help here.

Irish PEN currently has no state support or funding and is run by a voluntary committee. Membership fees are vital to our survival so please contact us to become a member!

We currently have a much reduced committee and are looking for support particularly with our Freedom to Write Campaign. For more information contacts Chair Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin vanessa@writing.ie