President Higgins is the Patron of the Irish Writers Centre and he has put the promotion of creativity, critical thought and the careful use of language at the heart of his Presidency.

Meeting members of Irish PEN, Word and the Irish Writers Centre at Áras an Uachtaráin on 27th March 2018, President Higgins marked the launch of WORD and Irish PEN’s initiative to support International PENs 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.

As a group we are planning 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. We will follow up with actions and updates on cases, but for this quarter we are focussing on, in particular Zehra Dogan and Raif Badawi.

Pictured, Father Tony Gaughan, President Irish PEN, Liz McManus, President Higgins, June Considine and Valerie Bistany (Irish Writers Centre)

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Listen to the President’s full speech here:

http://www.president.ie/en/diary/details/president-receives-representatives-of-word-and-irish-pen

 

In the warm and welcoming surroundings of the Royal St George Yacht Club, on February 22nd  2018, Anne Enright received the Irish PEN Award 2017, delayed slightly from 2016 due to her work commitments at Laureate. Irish PEN were delighted to welcome Sheila Bailey of PEN International and particularly pleased to be joined by so many friends from WORD, with whom we are working on an initiative to support PEN International’s Freedom to Write Campaign.

In keeping with the tradition started in 1935, (when the WB Yeats dinner took place), the annual Irish PEN Award is presented in the company of other leading writers.  Members of Irish PEN, as well as previous winners, nominate and vote for the candidate. Since 1999, the award recipients have included John B Keane, Brian Friel, Edna O’Brien, William Trevor, John McGahern, Neil Jordan, Seamus Heaney, Jennifer Johnston, Maeve Binchy, Thomas Kilroy, Roddy Doyle, Joseph O’Connor, John Banville, Frank McGuiness and Eilis Ni Dhuibhne.

After Irish PEN chair Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin gave a short speech outlining the background to the award, June Considine from WORD, gave a superb summary of work to date and how Irish writers were supporting International PEN’s initiatives.

The beautiful silver trophy was made by Eileen Moylan in Kerry, photo by Ger Holland Photography.

Anne Enright Irish PEN Trophy

The Way Forward: Open Meeting

Irish PEN has been in abeyance for some time and we are currently reviewing our position, and developing a strategy to take PEN forward into the coming years. With the current political climate, PEN’s role – both in Ireland and internationally – has become vital, and we know that many writers want to act but aren’t sure how. Organisation and focus are key to moving forward, and we want your help.

We are currently reviewing our position, and developing a strategy to take Irish PEN forward into the coming years. With the current political climate, Irish PEN’s role – both in Ireland and internationally – has become vital, and we know that many writers want to act but aren’t sure how. Organisation and focus are essential to moving forward, and we want your help.

In order to gauge support and forge a clear direction, we are planning an open meeting in Dublin to get YOUR feedback – to find out what you want from us, and how we can best serve your interests and the interests of free speech, and crucially how you can help achieve that. We are working with WORD – an informal association of professional writers from the Irish Writers Centre – some of whom are also anxious to ensure Irish writers are able to use their voices in the current political climate, with a specific focus on writers in prisons and writers suffering oppression. International PEN has the mechanisms in place to facilitate this and we believe this is the direction Irish PEN should move in, becoming a more politically active organisation rather than purely social.

With that in mind, we are holding an open meeting, open to any interested writer, at the Irish Writers Centre on September 23rd 2017 at 1pm, Huge thanks to the Irish Writers Centre who are generously donating the space. We will be explaining Irish PEN’s current position, our hopes to develop a significantly more active voice in the future and asking how you can help. No matter how small – the sending of one email or one letter – your contribution could be vital to a writer whose voice is being quashed, and vital to keeping Irish PEN active.

The open meeting is a free event, but if you are able to come, please register your attendance here:

https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/the-way-forward-irish-pen-open-meeting-tickets-37143898400

PEN’s mission is to promote and defend freedom of expression as part of a global writing community, enabling writers to actively engage with social issues in a diverse culture of respect, tolerance and supportive exchange.

eilis_irish_pen 140x210Éilís Ní Dhuibhne was presented with the Irish PEN Award for Outstanding Contribution to Irish Literature 2015 at the Irish PEN Award Dinner on Friday 20th February 2015. The dinner is held each year at The Royal St George Yacht Club, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin and open to both members and non members of PEN, was a packed house.

Éilís Ní Dhuibhne said, ‘It’s a great honour and a great delight to receive this award from Irish PEN and to find myself in such illustrious company as Edna O’Brien, Maeve Binchy, Jennifer Johnston & Frank McGuinness’

With the award presented by Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, Minister of State for Equality, New Communities & Culture, the evening was a true celebration of Éilís’ contribution to Irish Literature.

The 2015 award trophy is sponsored by the national online writing magazine & resources website www.writing.ie founded by Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin of The Inkwell Group. Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, current Chair of Irish PEN said, “Writing.ie is delighted to be sponsoring this prestigious trophy again this year. Éilís is an extremely popular recipient and it was lovely to see such huge support for her on the night.”

Irish PEN is the Centre in Ireland for PEN, an international association of writers which promotes literature and defends freedom of expression. Anyone can sign the PEN Charter on www.irishpen.com and associate membership is open to all. Full membership is open to all qualified writers who sign the charter. PEN, which stands for poets, playwrights, editors, essayists and novelists, is a non-political organization with special consultative status at UNESCO and the United Nations. Founded in 1921, it has from its earliest days in Ireland been associated with Lady Gregory, W.B. Yeats, and Lord Longford. The President of Irish PEN is the acclaimed playwright Brian Friel.

About the Award

In 1998 Irish PEN set up an award to honour an Irish writer who has made an outstanding contribution to Irish Literature. This Award is for a significant body of work, written and produced over a number of years, and is open to novelists, playwrights, poets, and scriptwriters. Full and associate members of Irish PEN, as well as previous winners, nominate and vote for the candidate. The writer is presented with the Award in the company of other writers at our annual dinner.

About Éilís Ní Dhuibhne 

Éilís Ní Dhuibhne was born in Dublin in 1954 and is a graduate of UCD. She studied at UCD – studying Pure English for the BA, doing an M Phil in Middle English and Old Irish, and finishing in 1982 with a Ph D in Folklore. From 1978-9 she studied at the Folklore Institute in the University of Copenhagen as a research scholar, while researching her doctoral thesis.

She published her first story in the New Irish Writing Page in the Irish Press, in 1974. Her first book was published in 1988, Blood and Water, and since then she has written about 24 books, including  novels, collections of short stories, several books for children, plays and non-fiction works. She writes in both Irish and English.

She has won several awards for her writing over the years including The Bisto Book of the Year Award, the Readers’ Association of Ireland Award, the Stewart Parker Award for Drama, the Butler Award for Prose from the Irish American Cultural Institute and several Oireachtas awards for novels and plays in Irish. The novel The Dancers Dancing was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Her stories are widely anthologized and translated. Her latest novel for young people, Dordán, was published in autumn 2010, and the last collection of short stories, The Shelter of Neighbours, was published in 2012. She was elected to Aosdána in 2004.

Previous winners of the Irish PEN Award:

1999 John B.Keane

2000 Brian Friel

2001 Edna O’Brien

2002 William Trevor

2003 John McGahern

2004 Neil Jordan

2005 Seamus Heaney

2006 Jennifer Johnston

2007 Maeve Binchy

2008 Thomas Kilroy

2009 Roddy Doyle

2010 Brendan Kennelly

2011 Colm Tóibín

2012 Joseph O’Connor

2013 John Banville

2014 Frank McGuinness

 

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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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