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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.


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


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
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’.


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. 


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
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
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 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 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 or by mobile 087 230 9096.




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 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 – 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.
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.
Become a member of Irish PEN, or rejoin – it’s  quick, easy and hugely beneficial.  Simply  click on this link, or visit

Irish PEN is delighted to honour author John Banville with the 2013 Irish PEN Award for Outstanding Achievement in Irish Literature.

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, Brendan Kennelly and Joseph O’Connor.

John Banville’s career has seen him presented with numerous awards. His novel The Book of Evidence was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the Guinness Peat Aviation award in 1989. His eighteenth novel, The Sea, won the Booker Prize in 2005. He was awarded the Franz Kafka Prize in 2011 and is a perennial contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Banville also writes as Benjamin Black and will write a new Philip Marlowe novel for publication in 2013 featuring the hero-detective of Raymond Chandler’s best-selling books, under his Benjamin Black pseudonym. He is considered by critics as a master stylist of language, and his writing has been described as perfectly crafted, beautiful, dazzling.

Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will present the PEN Award for outstanding achievement at this year’s Award Dinner, which takes place at 7pm on Friday, February 22nd at the Royal St George Yacht Club, Dún Laoghaire.

To avoid disappointment, we urge early booking – available online at this link:

Notes to Irish PEN Award Dinner guests:

This year Irish PEN has regrettably lost its Arts Council funding, and therefore your membership fees are essential to keep us running. You can now choose to renew your membership here, when purchasing your dinner ticket. Attendance at the dinner is open to all.

Guests arrive for 7pm & please bring your eTicket to collect your dinner ticket at the door. We very much look forward to meeting you on February 22nd.


2013 PEN Award nominations

In 1998, Irish PEN set up an award to honour an Irish-born 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, scriptwriters etc.

Members of Irish PEN, as well as previous winners nominate and vote for the candidate. In keeping with the tradition started at the W.B. Yeats dinner in 1935, the writer is presented with the Award in the company of other writers at our annual dinner.

In 1999 the first Irish PEN Award was presented to John B. Keane. Since then Brian Friel, Edna O’Brien, William Trevor, John McGahern, Neil Jordan, Seamus Heaney, Jennifer Johnston, Maeve Binchy, Thomas Kilroy, Roddy Doyle, Colm Tóibín and Joseph O’Connor have been recipients.

We request your nominations for next year’s Award, and very much look forward to seeing you at our Award Dinner in February.

The 2012 Irish PEN Award for Literature:

You can email your nominations to this address : 
Postal Address for nominations : c/o Irish PEN Correspondence Secretary, United Arts Club, 3 Upper Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2.






Remarks by President Michael D. Higgins at the presentation of the Irish PEN Award for Literature to Joseph O’Connor


Friday, 10th February 2012


Ladies and Gentlemen:


I am absolutely delighted to be here tonight at the Irish PEN award for literature, and I would like to thank Joe Armstrong, the Chair of Irish PEN, for his kind invitation to join you all here this evening.


The work of the writer we honour this evening is replete with themes and issues that go to the heart of personal dignity and human decency. The symbolic empty chair reminds us all that many writers around the world still struggle for the freedom to address those issues and pay a high personal price for their commitment to truth and free speech. As we enjoy our evening, and happily celebrate the achievements of the writer we are honouring, we also remember all our fellow writers for whom PEN continues to hold a torch of concern and solidarity.


Cé gur tír bheag í Éire bhíomar ar thús cadhnaíochta sna réimsí ealaíon agus cultúir i gcónaí. Chuireamar go mór le domhan na litríochta ach go háirithe agus bronnadh Duais Nobel na Litríochta ar scríbhneoirí Éireannacha ceithre huaire.


Many, many more Irish writers have featured, and continue to feature, on prestigious shortlists for literary awards around the world. Tonight, I am truly delighted to be joining you to honour one of those great Irish diplomats of literature, renowned abroad and loved at home as one of our greatest and most popular contemporary writers.


I have always been struck by Joseph O’Connor’s tale of how, in one evening of what he described as ‘dismal hopelessness’, he found himself copying, word for word the text of John McGahern’s short story ‘Sierra Leone’ simply to ease the ache of feeling unable to create a piece of work and put it down on paper. It is a feeling that all born writers will instantly recognise and Joseph O’Connor is truly a born writer.


Since those early days of yearning frustration he has, of course, gone from strength to strength, his brilliant novels winning awards, accolades and praise around the world.

He is a brilliant writer and an accessible one. He is an urban realist who also delves beautifully and imaginatively into a past that defines so much of our national character. He is a talented writer, and a truly courageous one, a writer who takes risks, who tries new things, who is determined to constantly stretch and challenge himself, who never ever takes his great and unique gift for granted.


With the publication of “Star of the Sea” in 2004 Joe both impressed and amazed the literary world. It is generally regarded as the novel that brought Joe to the admiring attention of a very wide and international readership. Described as ‘a missing link in the Irish literary tradition’ this novel reminds us of the searing reality of our national historical experience as Joseph bravely and imaginatively confronts that bleakest of bleak moments in our past to produce a work of astounding brilliance and originality.


Even before that ground breaking piece of work, Joseph had proved himself as a writer who allows us to discover ourselves and, through that discovery, to learn more about ourselves and the situations we must deal with.  This talent was evident from his very earliest novels:  “Cowboys and Indians” where he so brilliantly and poignantly depicted  the final moments of a pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland poised on the brink of change but still trapped in its own past, unaware of the seismic changes to our society and culture that were shortly to come; and “Desperados” where he moved between the decades, and indeed between Ireland and revolutionary Nicaragua, as he explored the necessity to understand our past and to face up to our mistakes in order to deal with current difficulties and sadness. With the apparent ease of the true novelist he forced us into a confrontation with ourselves as he captured the light, the darkness and the shadowed hues of a normal, complex, multi-faceted existence. His involvement with post dictatorshipNicaraguarejected the idealist impulse of his heart.


“Star of the Sea” and “RedemptionFalls” represented Joe’s thematic sojourn in theUnited Statesafter which he returned toIrelandfor the focus of his most recent novel. “Ghost Light” not only beautifully tells the story of a doomed love affair between John Millington Synge and Molly Allgood, it also evocatively captures the spirit of a society in crisis in all its political, cultural and social turmoil. In Molly Allgood Joe has surely depicted one of the most compelling female characters in modern literary fiction and her decline and death in the novel is unbearably moving. There is no doubt that Joe O’Connor is one of the brightest stars among a brilliant constellation of contemporary Irish writing.


We are, of course, living through very difficult days. At my inauguration, I said that our successes in the eyes of so many in the world have been in the cultural and spiritual areas – in our humanitarian, peace-building and human rights work; in our literature, art, drama and song; and in how that drama, song and literature have helped us cope with adversity, soothed the very pain which they describe so well, and opened the space for new possibilities.


When it comes to soothing our collective pain, Joe O’Connor has also done us all great service. Not only is Joe a very distinguished novelist, he is also a wonderful diarist and essayist. In previous years these were catalogued in the published diaries of a hapless young male who was struggling to make sense of life, love and – even more trying – his Irishness. In more recent years, Joe’s reflections on the issues “du jour” have been broadcast to the nation in the form of a radio diary. His preoccupations span the spectrum of life – politics, love, music, family, children, the extraordinarily creative way that Irish people use foul language and the propensity of Irish teenagers to use the word “like” in such a multi-functional manner.


Joe’s radio diaries may be satirical but it is a satire that is used for caring and constructive purposes. Underlying all of Joe’s broadcast reflections is a sense of a man who cares deeply about his country, who feels a profound empathy with his fellow citizens who are struggling through tough times, who values and respects the old decencies that were at the heart of community life in Ireland and who is determined to use his unique creative genius to imagine a future society that we can all be proud of and in which all our children can live, grow and prosper.


As a people and a country we are closing one sad chapter and opening another that we hope will lead to a new version of our Irishness; one that retains all that was best about our past but is founded on a new wisdom born out of disappointment, hurt and adversity, but also driven by a determination not to be paralysed by a cynical fatalism and by a positive commitment, in a spirit of active citizenship, to play our own individual part in renewing the Republic, strengthening the fabric our society and enhancing the quality of our community.


It is a chapter of new possibilities and, as a country, we are fortunate to have contemporary writers of the calibre of Joseph to chart this new chapter; writers who so beautifully and often so poignantly capture those important moments in our national psyche; the parts of our past that are key to our understanding of the society we live in and may wish to change; the complexity and the moral confusion of a rapidly and constantly changing Ireland;  and now the fragility of the aftershock and our great national courage as we gather our strength and move forward to a shared and better future.


Ba mhaith liom críoch a chur leis seo agus comhghairdeas a dhéanamh le Seosamh toisc gur roghnaíodh é don dámhachtain cháiliúil seo, ardghradam atá aige anois ar aon dul leis na scríbhneoirí Éireannacha is tábhachtaí agus is cáiliúla dá bhfuil ann. Is gradam é a chuireann Seosamh chun tosaigh mar cheann de na guthanna is tábhachtaí agus is mó tionchair i litríocht chomhaimseartha na hÉireann.


I am honoured to be here tonight to present this award to a writer I have long admired and am especially pleased to do so in the presence of Joe’s wife Anne Marie and his parents Seán and Viola. I wish Joseph every success in the future and look forward to reading more of his very brilliant work.


Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.

Chair of Irish PEN, Joe Armstrong’s speech, at Irish PEN Award Ceremony, 10 February, 2012

I welcome President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina, Joseph O’Connor and his wife Anne Marie Casey, and his parents, Sean and Viola O’Connor. I welcome the Director of PEN International, Laura McVeigh and her husband Howard, all our distinguished writers, publishers, members of the media, guests and friends, and each and every one of you. Thank you for being here tonight.


PEN promotes literature and defends free speech. The empty chair at tonight’s dinner symbolises the 888 writers who, during 2011, were killed, ‘disappeared’, imprisoned or were harassed solely because of their work.


Given our commitment to free speech, PEN campaigns to have blasphemy, which is repugnant to free speech, removed from the Irish Constitution and decriminalized. We welcome the Government’s commitment to review blasphemy in its promised constitutional convention.


I thank the Arts Council and Dublin City Arts Office for their ongoing support. I thank and Vanessa O’Loughlin for sponsoring the beautiful Irish PEN trophy for tonight’s event. I thank the Royal St George Yacht Club for hosting us at this lovely venue. I thank the Irish PEN Committee for all their hard and voluntary work throughout the year: Carol Robinson Tweed, Christine Murray, Emer Liston, Kay Boland, Máire Moriarty, Ruth Long, Tony Gaughan and Vanessa O’Loughlin. I thank the dinner subcommittee, Kay Boland, Ruth Long and Vanessa O’Loughlin for all their hard and painstaking work in preparing for tonight’s happy celebration.


I am delighted that Joseph O’Connor is to be presented with the Irish PEN Award for Outstanding Contribution to Irish Literature and I heartily congratulate you, Joseph.


Finally – President Higgins – as well as being a poet and an author, you have long been a champion of human rights, an inclusive citizenship, a creative society and a real Republic – values central to the mission of PEN.


In any voluntary organisation, sometimes record-keeping isn’t the best and so I am delighted to renew the honorary membership of President Higgins and I now invite the President to speak.