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Irish PEN’s summer 2013 newsletter
  • o New Members & Members’ News
  • o PEN/NEW VOICES Competition
  • o AGM 2013
  • o Irish PEN Award Dinner
  • o Irish PEN and Blasphemy
  • o Irish PEN co-sponsors Free Author Media
  • Training Day – held June 15th
  • o Upcoming Festivals
  • o PEN’s 45th International Writers Meeting
  • o Mary Russell: a talk on Writing & Travel in Syria
New Members

We extend a  warm welcome  to PEN’s  newest members: Morag Prunty, also known as Kate Kerrigan, will be known to many as a New York Times  bestselling author;  her latest release City of Hope, the second part  of  Ellie’s  trilogy, was published by Harper Collins in the U.S. on June 26th

 

Deirdre Conroy is responsible for the blog called Diary of  a  Dublin Landlady,  as  well as  many art  and architectural  reviews  in journals, and has  written chapters  of  published books, Painting Ireland and Great Irish Houses. Deirdre has just finished her first novel. http://dublinlandlady.blogspot.ie/

 

Rosemarie Rowley was born in Dublin. To date she has published five books of poetry, and has four times won the  Epic  award  in the  Scottish  International Poetry Competition. Her most  recent  books  are  Hot  Cinquefoil  Star (2002)  and In Memory  of  Her (2004) and (2008); see more at www.rosemarierowley.ie.

 

Padraig Hanratty has published one short story collection A Blanket of Blues,  in eformat and hardcopy,  as  well  as  a  novella  Dimestore Avenue Blues.  Pádraig has  also been published in Judas! Music magazine, Hot Press and Electric Acorn website.

 

Margaret  Scott is  an author,  blogger and guest blogger with Easons.  The Irish Independent reviewed her  novel Between  You and Me, as  “a  stylish, effervescent  page-turner, which is  sure  to strike  a chord with readers and propel Scott’s wry wit into the limelight”.  Margaret  has  also been published in the Irish Independent,  Irish Daily Mail and Woman’s Weekly.

 

Mayo native Elizabeth Reapy is  the  founding editor of Wordlegs, an online creative writing journal which has  spawned  numerous ebooks, a  short fiction collection (30 under 30), and as of 2012, a brand new festival: The Shore Writers Festival. Elizabeth was the Tyrone  Guthrie  Exchange  Irish Writer  in Varuna  for 2012,  she  is  a  pushcart  nominee and this  year,  the Arts  Council  awarded  her  a  Literature  Bursary to complete her debut short story collection. Elizabeth was Irish PEN’s nominated entry to the PEN/NEW VOICES AWARD 2013.  The Award is open to writers  of  short stories,  creative non-fiction, journalism and poetry who are  aged 18-30, and are put  forward by PEN Centres.  The  Award  aims to encourage  new writing worldwide,  to promote translation – especially into English,  French and Spanish – and to help emerging writers by providing advice  on how  best  to work  towards  a  career  as  a writer.  The  distinguished panel  of  judges  includes Carole Blake, who represents Irish PEN’s 2012 Award recipient Joseph O’Connor, and all of the judges will give feedback  to the  six  long-listed  competition finalists. The closing date for entries was on June 20th

 

Among our newest Associate Members, we welcome Joseph McCloskey,  Karen Ryan,  Paul  McNulty, Carolann Copland, Diane  Ward, Mark Edmund Hutcheson, and Colleen Nelligan Connolly.

 

Members’ News
We  were  delighted to hear Cyril McHale’s wonderfully written  piece about  his  grandfather,  titled  ‘Past Projections’,  broadcast on Sunday Miscellany on June 16th  You can listen back to the broadcast online by clicking on this link, or visit http://www.rte.ie/radio1/sunday-miscellany/.
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One  of  the  highlights  of  the  June  2013 celebrations of James Joyce’s Bloomsday was the launch by Joyce biographer, Peter Costello, of Brendan Lynch’s latest book, CITY OF WRITERS. The  Lives  and Homes  of  Dublin Authors. The launch was attended by seventyguests,  including Robert  Nicholson,  curator  of  the Writers Museum, and Guy St John Williams, grandson of novelist Oliver St John Gogarty.

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Irish PEN AGM 2013

 

We are happy to announce that following elections at Irish PEN’s AGM on June 7th

 

The Irish PEN Executive Committee  for  2013-14 is  as  follows: Kay Boland, Chairperson; Vanessa O’Loughlin,  Vice  Chairperson and PRO; Timmy Conway,  Treasurer; Brenda O’Hanlon, Correspondence Secretary; Máire Moriarty, Minutes Secretary; Emer Liston, Newsletter Editor  and Writers  in Prison Committee Secretary; Tony Gaughan, Honorary Committee Member.

 

We will  sorely miss the  huge  talent of our Social Media Co-ordinator, Chris Murray, who is no longer able to work in this capacity on PEN’s committee due to writing and editing commitments. As  well as having her work performed at last year’s Béal Festival, Chris is  a member of  the International PEN Women Writer’s Committee, and manages a successful Poetry Blog called Poethead’.

 

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Along with the loss of our Social Media Co-ordinator,  Irish  PEN  is also  urgently in need of a Membership Secretary, and an Email Correspondence  Secretary. Please  get  in touch if  you would like  to know  more about the essential (and never dull..!) roles mentioned here. 
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Irish PEN Award Dinner  2013

 

The  2013 Irish PEN Award for  Outstanding Achievement in Irish Literature was awarded to John Banville,  the  novelist  and playwright  whose  most
impressive  works  include The  Sea and The  Book  of Evidence.  The  ceremony took  place  on the  22nd February  at  the  Royal  St.  George  Yacht  Club,  Dun Laoghaire. At the ceremony, the presenter of the award, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan described  the  recipient  as “a  writer  of  innumerable gifts,  of immense talent, of  superb  reputation in Ireland and abroad”.  Accepting the  award,  Banville expressed pleasure at receiving recognition in his own country, adding: “PEN is a splendid organization…that has done  great  work” and described his  first experience of PEN while working in Eastern Europe in the early 1980s. John Banville’s previous honours include the Booker Prize for his 2005 novel The Sea and the Franz Kafka prize in 2011. The Irish PEN award has been presented by Irish PEN since  1999; previous  winners  include Seamus  Heaney and Edna  O’Brien,  and the Award’s trophy was sponsored by www.writing.ie.
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Also, PEN warmly congratulates Maria Duffy on the launch and success of her third novel, The Letter (published by  Hachette Books Ireland).

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Irish PEN & Blasphemy

 

“The Executive Committee of Irish PEN, the Irish Centre  for  PEN  International,  campaigns  for  the offence  of  blasphemy to be removed from the Irish Constitution in 2013.  Human rights  attach to  individuals,  not to  states, organised groups or ideas. When governments seek to limit the rights of individuals to criticise, they  are  not  seeking,  as  they claim,  to  protect  faith  or belief. Rather, they are seeking increased power over their  citizens.  It  is  essential  to  maintain freedom  of  expression, ensuring writers are free to criticise. Irish PEN  calls  upon the  Government  to  restore  our reputation for free speech without delay”. Available to read in full at constitution.ie.
Two years ago, Irish PEN undertook to campaign for a referendum on Blasphemy and the Irish Constitution. Currently,  the  Government’s  policy is  that the Convention on the Constitution, a forum made up of 100 people with  an independent  Chairperson,  will convene to consider and make recommendations on certain topics as possible future amendments to the Constitution.  The Convention is to complete its work within 12 months,  and has  received  Irish PEN’s submission  on Blasphemy and the  importance  of removing it from the  Constitution without  further delay.  You can read Irish PEN’s submission here, and visit constitution.ie for further information.

 

Dublin City of Literature/ Irish PEN Free Author  Media Training Day
June  15th saw a  very special day-long event, sponsored by Dublin City of  Literature  and Irish PEN,  and run in conjunction with  Writing.ie and the  National  Emerging Writer progamme. Over  40 new and established writers who attended  this workshop found out  exactly how  to approach the media, how to win at radio and TV interviews and how to deliver  a  first  class  reading.  MTV  VJ and now corporate trainer Emma Ledden (pictured) and author Declan Hughes kept the audience busy making frantic notes in the morning, while in the afternoon, internet entrepreneur and Business Woman of the Year Darina Loakman,  explained  the  importance  having a  well thought  out  blog or  website,  of  understanding your target market and having a social media strategy that looks for quality over quantity. Participants,  many of  whom had had that  all- important  author  photo taken by professional photographer Paul Sherwood at a special rate, left the day significantly better prepared for the challenges of book promotion.  Describing it  as  ‘brilliant’  and ‘fantastic’, both the calibre of the presenters and the insights they offered were highly praised. PEN members  may book author  photographs separately to the event, at Paul Sherwood’s studio in Blackrock,  Co.  Dublin – contact  Paul  directly at www.sherwood.ie or by mobile 087 230 9096.

 

FESTIVAL FEVER

 

There  are  many exciting festivals  coming up for writers and book lovers in the autumn; the Mountains to Sea Festival again promises to be a feast, with an especially interesting programme  on Sunday September 8th in Dún Laoghaire; visit mountainstosea.ie for more details. Also, among the UNESCO Dublin City of Literature events coming up, one of the most exciting promises to be the Dublin Festival of  History which takes  place  between  27 th September and 10th October.

 

2013 is the year of the Gathering and the year when we mark  the  100th  anniversary of  momentous historical events in the city of Dublin. The upheaval of the  Dublin Lockout  and the  formation of  James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army are but two of a series of historical topics  which will  be  explored  in the  new Dublin Festival of History. More information will be made available  at www.cityofliterature.ie – always a space worth watching. Last year the Dublin Book Festival 2012 presented a packed programme of events, almost entirely free of charge  with  readings,  interviews, debates,  book launches  and workshops for adults,  children  and schools.

 

The  festival  found a  new home  in Smock Alley theatre,  Temple Bar,  and there  it  will return in 2013. The Dublin Book Festival team was  kind enough to lend support to Irish

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PEN and Front  Line  Defenders’ event  to mark November  15th,  which is  the  Day  of  the  Imprisoned Writer – a date marked by PEN Centres  around the world,  to recognize  and support  writers  who resist repression of  the basic human right to freedom of expression. Last  year’s event featured support and readings  from Brian Keenan, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill  and Justine McCarthy, and some  highlights  can be  viewed here, uploaded to YouTube at this link; we hope to work again with both Front Line Defenders and the Dublin Book Festival in 2013.
Pen’s 45th International Writers Meeting was held at Bled from May 8th to 12th 2013. Delegates representing 34 centres from across  the  world attended, welcomed by Dr Uros Grilc, the Slovenian Minister  for  Culture. Subsequently  they were entertained  by a presentation of  the  culture and literary traditions of the central region of Slovenia. The first theme discussed was ‘Literary Creation, from the Periphery to the Centre’; it was recognised that in terms  of  ideology this was  a  basic  dynamic in society. Each Periphery gradually draws nearer to the Centre,  eventually replacing it  and prompting the process to repeat itself.
The second topic was the writer as a traveller creating peace.  This  resonated  with the delegates.  Clearly travel  enables  people  to get beyond viewing other peoples in terms of their stereotypes. It also provides an opportunity to appreciate the  cultural  roots  and riches  of  those  residing in different  parts  of  the world. The result is a genuine respect and regard for the  otherness  in peoples. There  was  unanimity that extending boundaries in this way is a creator of peace both within and without. The  PEN Declaration on Digital  Freedom, passed  at the  International  Congress  in Gyeongju,  Korea,  in 2012 was discussed.
Four articles were appended to it  to clarify  how  it would affect  the  Targeting of Individuals, Censorship, Surveillance and Business and Human Rights.
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October  2013: Mary Russell,  writing  and  travelling in Syria
Mary Russell is well-known for The Blessings of a Good Thick  Skirt,  her  book  about  women  travellers  and explorers throughout the ages. In her latest book, My Home  is  Your Home:  A Journey  round Syria,  she employs the survival strategies of the solo traveller, seasoning a devil-may-care  attitude  with  a pinch  of common sense when taking on everything that comes her  way in Syria – be it a  pack of  feral  dogs, an important  host  or  a  chain-smoking Sufi  sheik. Essentially a  cultural  travel book,  appended  to it is a postscript which offers both a background and an update to the  present  political situation which readers will find useful. Join Irish PEN October 10th to hear riveting stories  and insights  from successful and admired travel writer, Mary Russell. www.maryrussell.info
Become a member of Irish PEN, or rejoin – it’s  quick, easy and hugely beneficial.  Simply  click on this link, or visit www.irishpen.com.
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PEN International statement :

“PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee is deeply concerned at the two year prison sentence handed down today to the three members of the Russian punk band, Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samusevich under Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code. The sentence was read today at the Khamovnichesky Court in Moscow.

The three women had been held in custody since early March with their trial not beginning until July.

During the trial the women were locked in a bulletproof cage and according to their lawyers were not giving food or water for long periods of time. The prosecution and its witnesses argued that the bands act had betrayed a deep hatred of all Orthodox Christians and was not motivated by their outrage at the Putin regime, as the women had stated. ”

Read More : http://www.pen-international.org/newsitems/russia-pussy-riot-band-members-jailed-for-two-years/

11-04-27 Press Statement Ireland Blasphemy Law

 

 

27 April 2011 PEN International strongly supports the repeal of Ireland’s Defamation Act of 2009 and an amendment to the Irish Constitution‘s requirement that blasphemy be prohibited under Irish law.

PEN is an organization whose members pledge to promote good understanding and mutual respect between nations and to do their utmost to dispel race, class and national hatreds. We deplore the distrust, disparagement or denigration of any individual based on her or his religious beliefs. We condemn discrimination, threats, harassment, or violence against individuals based on their religion and support national and international prohibitions against such actions. PEN and its member centers are engaged in activities and programs around the globe aimed at reducing religious hatreds and suspicions in the post-September 11, 2001 world.

We are adamantly opposed to criminalizing speech considered insulting or offensive to religions,” states PEN International President, John Ralston Saul. “Religions are systems of ideas, embodied in institutions and sometimes states. As such, they cannot lie outside the bounds of questioning, criticism and description – the whole terrain of free expression“. Insult and blasphemy laws such as Ireland’s Defamation Act of 2009 clearly run counter to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and other international free expression protections. Moreover, they do little to advance the goal of promoting respect.

For the past several years, PEN has worked successfully with other human rights organizations to reverse efforts by a number of nations within the United Nations to promulgate new restrictions on speech considered defamatory to religions. Many governments have supported the preservation of existing free expression protections and opposed the spread of blasphemy laws; among these is the government of Ireland, which has voted against resolutions that would require countries to introduce laws prohibiting religious defamation.

That Ireland would at the same time have passed legislation banning blasphemy is ironic, to say the least,” notes Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee. “But it is an irony with consequences: Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.N. recently cited Ireland’s blasphemy law in support of restrictions on defamation of religion.”

At a meeting of the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International in Brussels in March, 2011, PEN Centres unanimously endorsed support for repeal of Ireland’s Defamation Act. Also in March, 2011, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the rights of individuals to practice their religion.

PEN has been grateful for the support of the Irish government in voting against international restrictions on the practice of religion. We are confident that it shares our goal of protecting and promoting freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. In light of that common goal, we urge immediate repeal of the Defamation Act of 2009 and strongly endorse a constitutional amendment to remove the requirement to ban blasphemy from Ireland’s constitution.

For further information, please contact:

PEN International, Frank Geary, Interim Executive Director. Tel. +44 20 7405 7422, email: frank.geary@pen-international.org

Irish PEN, Joe Armstrong, Chair. Tel. 00 353 46 9249285 / 00 353 87 966 1960, email: joearmstrong@eircom.net

NOTES to EDITORS

PEN International celebrates literature and promotes freedom of expression. Founded in 1921, our global community of writers now spans more than 100 countries. Our programmes, campaigns, events and publications connect writers and readers wherever they are in the world.

www.pen-international.org

 

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PEN International‘s WiPC Conference, Brussels, March 2011.  Emer Liston. 
 
 
PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee conference is held bi-annually.  This year the location was Brussels, and the hosts were PEN Vlaanderen – the Dutch speaking Belgian PEN centre.  I had the great privilege of representing Irish PEN at the WiPC conference in Brussels, and delivering Irish PEN’s position paper on our recently passed blasphemy law.
Throughout the conference, we heard many cases highlighted from around the world and nearer home, in Europe – cases of writers being detained, punished and persecuted for crimes of conscience and for daring to defy authoritarian regimes that still flourish all around us.
Throughout the weekend conference, there was much celebration about the success of the recent revolution in Tunisia.  Naziha Rejiba, a female writer from Tunisia, spoke of the joy in her homeland now that writers and prisoners of conscience had been set free.  Since the uprising, books have appeared in shop windows and writers have quickly become inspired.  Also, writers had previously been championed in the underground literary scene for the simple reason that they were banned – now critics and readers can choose who they will champion without fear.
Sri Lanka was cited as a country that has no internet lines at all, rendering communication almost impossible.  One delegate, a Sri Lankan journalist, was communicating on the internet using a satellite phone with no opportunity to write long messages.  He needed to move constantly because of the fear of satellite detection.  Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka campaigned for this journalist and currently for another journalist who is about to be deported from Ireland.

The case of the Sri Lankan journalist in Ireland who is facing imminent deportation was highlighted throughout the conference as “the most horrible metaphor for On The Move” (On the Move was the theme of the Passaporta literary festival).  Marion Bosford-Fraser from Canadian PEN stated that pleas to the Irish Justice Department were urgently needed to change his terrible fate.   
The Belarus campaign was highlighted by a representative from Belarusian PEN.  3 members of Belarusian PEN were detained in prison at once, at the end of last year, when their offices were raided and their computers were seized on Dec 28.  Currently their movements are very restricted, and they are under constant surveillance.
English PEN reminded the delegation that the Free Belarusian Theatre had just won an award from Index on Censorship in recognition of their work, and they are due to perform in the British house of commons on Monday 28 March with Jude Law and Kevin Spacey, two figures who are committed to the cause of Belarusians living under the last dictatorship in Europe.
On Saturday March 26th, I spoke as the Irish PEN delegate on Irish PEN’s campaign to abolish our blasphemy law, which provides that those found guilty of the offence of blasphemy face a fine of up to €25,000.  (Moreover, courts are empowered to issue a warrant authorising the police to forcibly enter and search any suspected premises, including a dwelling, for copies of “blasphemous” statements).  The delegation unanimously voted to support Irish PEN’s campaign, and PEN International pledged to prepare a letter to that effect.  Norwegian PEN and Larry Siems, from American PEN, also spoke on the need to stop any move to protect against religious defamation at UN level. 
One of the strengths of the WiPC conference was the apparently seamless link-in with other relevant conferences and literary events which were held in Brussels on the same weekend.  Throughout the weekend conference, one building – the KVS theatre – was home to shared events.  These events were organised by PEN International, PEN Vlaanderen, ICORN (International Cities of Refuge Network), HALMA (the network of literary centres in Europe) and the Passaporta festival of literature.  This meant that both public, open and ticketed literary events were held while a number of delegates with specific interests were visiting the city with a common purpose.  In this way, instead of pillaging a small niche market for literary events, the organisers of each event were cannily expanding a niche market by inviting visitors from all over Europe and the world to attend the conference, while a literary festival was also taking place.  This is certainly a model we could follow here in the literary events community in Ireland, as Dublin still basks in the glow of the recently awarded title of UNESCO City of Literature.
To support Irish PEN’s blasphemy campaign, and for more information on writers of conscience here in Ireland, please visit www.irishpen.com to leave a message of support, or visit Irish PEN on Facebook, follow our Twitter account: twitter.com/PENIreland, or alternatively contact us at: info@irishpen.com.

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PEN International Writers in Prisons Conference 24-26 March 2011.


On Saturday 26/03/2011 Emer Liston , Irish PEN delegate to the WiPC conference in

Brussels, addressed the issue of Irish Pens Campaign to abolish Irelands Blasphemy

Law. The delegation unanimously voted to support Irish PEN’s campaign , and PEN

International pledged to write a letter to that effect. Norwegian PEN and Larry Siems,

from American PEN , also spoke on the need to stop any move to protect against

religious defamation at UN level , thus was identified the direct correlation between

Irish PEN’s campaign and International and Norwegian PEN’s campaigns.

 

On Sunday March 27 2011, Larry Siems received a notification that the UN would

not support any protection for religious defamation, Irish PEN awaits further

correspondence from PEN International, specifically from Frank Geary, an Irish

national and PEN International official based in London and who has a specific wish

to help with this campaign.

 

Writers Hail UN Accord Ending Push to Ban Blasphemy.

 

New York City, March 30, 2011—PEN American Center today praised the U.N. Human Rights Council for ending efforts to restrict speech considered offensive to religions, calling the Council’s recent unanimous vote on a religious tolerance resolution “a vital affirmation of the inextricably-linked rights of freedom of expression and religion.

“We are delighted that the OIC has come to share our view that in the necessary work of building mutual respect between the world’s religious traditions, the criminalization of speech about a religion—however offensive to its adherents—would have been an unhelpful step,” PEN President Kwame Anthony Appiah said today in New York. “This is especially so because incitement to violence on any basis, including religion, is already exempt from the wide protections for freedom of expression in international law.”

 

Writers Hail U.N Accord Ending Push to Ban Blasphemy

Urgent Need for Constitutional Referendum on Blasphemy