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:

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.

Irish PEN implores the Saudi Arabian authorities and all international bodies with influence in Saudi Arabia to act immediately to prevent the whipping of blogger Raif Badawi, scheduled to take place again on Friday January 16th at Alislahia Jail, Jeddah. The imminent and potentially lethal flogging violates the absolute prohibition in international law against torture and maltreatment.

In November 2014, Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” and “founding a liberal website.” According to sources close to the case, he will receive 50 lashes each Friday following morning prayers for 20 weeks; this unimaginably cruel and harsh punishment began on January 9th.  The extended punishment is likely to push Badawi’s body to its outermost limits, causing severe long-term damage and possibly death.


Irish PEN calls on the Saudi Arabian authorities to release Raif Badawi and his lawyer Walid Abu al-Khair immediately and unconditionally as they are being held solely for their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression.  In the meantime, we call for both men to be granted all necessary medical treatment, as well as access to their families and lawyers of their choice.

Irish PEN urges the Irish Government to make respect for human rights and international law a requisite for the kind of close relationship it shares with Saudi Arabia and its leader, King Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz bin Saud. We call on our Representatives to publicly condemn this action, and call for the flogging to be halted immediately and for this profoundly unjust sentence to be rescinded, allowing Badawi to return to his family.

Irish PEN member and best selling author, journalist Martina Devlin highlighted the case in the Irish Independent:

Just days ago, Enda Kenny stood shoulder to shoulder with other leaders in Paris to champion freedom of expression. Among world representatives at the pro-democracy march was the Saudi ambassador to France, Muhammed Ismail Al-Sheikh.

Two days earlier, Saudia Arabia had flogged a blogger. Fifty blows in public. The first salvo in a barbaric sentence which condemns him to 1,000 lashes. His crime? Expressing ideas through free speech. He set up a website – now closed down – encouraging social debate about religious and political issues.

Even as the Saudi government condemned Islamic fundamentalist violence elsewhere, it was silencing a voice of peaceful dissent at home. And in the most inhumane fashion.

Tomorrow, blogger Raif Badawi is due to receive another 50 blows with a cane outside a mosque in Jeddah. The 31-year-old father-of-three will undergo this ritualised exercise in pain and humiliation for 20 consecutive Fridays. Corporal punishment is defined as torture according to international human rights law. Yet his only crime is to stimulate social debate. 

After each flogging he is returned to prison, where he has been held since June 2012. His sentence also includes a 10-year jail term and a fine of €225,000. For good measure, his lawyer was given a lengthy jail term.

Read the full article here:

Irish PEN

Irish PEN was formed in 1935. It is an association of Irish writers, associate members and friends concerned in the written word, in freedom of expression and in the love of literature.

Irish PEN is affiliated to PEN International, who also condemn this action outright.

Irish PEN logo


Emer Liston, Writers in Prison Committee Secretary, Irish PEN  c/o The United Arts Club, 3 Upper Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin 2

Irish PEN are fully in support of the statement by PEN International about the horrific attack 7th January on French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo:

PEN International and 42 PEN Centres around the world condemn the unprecedented attack on the office of the French publication Charlie Hebdo in Paris today in which 12 people died and seven were injured.

This is not the first time that journalists, editors, writers, cartoonists  and translators have been targeted for expressing opinions that may offend, outrage or shock sections of society. But there has never been an assault on such a scale in Europe. There can be no justification for using violence to silence or intimidate those who speak out, no matter how offensive their views.

In the face of such violence, it is incumbent on all governments and religious leaders to strengthen their commitment to press freedom and to safeguard freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. This attack must be investigated promptly and impartially in accordance with international standards and the perpetrators brought to justice.

John Ralston Saul, President of PEN International said: “PEN is appalled by today’s savage attack on Charlie Hebdo. Today the entire PEN family stands in solidarity with journalists in France, and all over the world, who are increasingly subjected to violence for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

Condemning the cowardly attack on the office of the magazine, Jean-Luc Despax, President of French PEN said: “Despite this atrocious act, freedom of expression remains intact, whether expressed through art, satire or analysis.”

- See more at:

Day of Impr Writer LOGO (2)Mark the Day of the Imprisoned Writer @ the Dublin Book Festival; book your ticket at:, and listen to Arena on RTÉ Radio 1 on Wednesday, November 6th to hear more about the writers involved around the world -

Please see below for details of how to nominate your choice of author for Irish PEN’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Irish Literature -

At 6pm on November 15th, as part of the Dublin Book Festival at Smock Alley Theatre, Irish PEN looks forward to marking the Day of the Imprisoned Writer with poet, scriptwriter and broadcaster Theo Dorgan, international news analyst and Newstalk broadcaster Shona Murray, and Afghanistan-based journalist and Human Rights defender Jamila Omar.

Every year, around the world, the Day of the Imprisoned Writer celebrates and supports writers who resist repression of the basic human right to freedom of expression and who stand up to attacks made against their right to impart information and insight.

Theo DorganIn a 60 minute event, Theo, Shona and Jamila will read from the work of writers based around the world who have been punished and targeted because they had the courage to speak their minds; challenging injustice and confronting governments and oppressive regimes far afield and closer to home.

The Day of the Imprisoned Writer is proudly hosted by Irish PEN and Front Line Defenders. Irish PEN are delighted that it will form part of the Dublin Book Festival for the first time this year.

Tickets to this event are free but limited – we look forward to seeing you there.

Calling all PEN members – please submit your nominations for Irish PEN ‘s 2014 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Irish Literature.

Front Line DefendersYou may submit your nominations to this address, and renew your membership sub at Past PEN Award winners include John Banville, Joseph O’Connor, Brendan Kennelly, Roddy Doyle, Neil Jordan, Edna O’Brien, Irish PEN’s President Brian Friel, William Trevor, Jennifer Johnston and Thomas Kilroy. Past Award winners who are no longer with us include Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney and Maeve Binchy. We will update you on details of our Award presentation and dinner, which will take place in early 2014.

Please see for more information about Irish PEN, our members and our annual award.

You can view the flyer here.

Shona Murray

Seamus Heaney 1939-2013


In a short tribute on behalf of the Committee of Irish PEN Fr.Tony Gaughan writes:

Members of Irish PEN are saddened by the loss  of Seamus Heaney, a true friend, former member and recipient of the Irish PEN Award in 2005. Irish PEN members were thrilled in 1995 when he was presented with the Nobel Prize for Literature. It is no secret that the Irish PEN Centre had for some time been presenting his  name for that prestigious honour.

Among his many qualities, Irish PEN members will remember his friendliness and unassuming attitude to the many honours showered upon him.

‘Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it. ‘

Seamus Heaney 1939-2013

.The Glamoured

Brightening brightness, alone on the road, she appears,
Crystalline crystal and sparkle of blue in green eyes,
Sweetness of sweetness in her unembittered young voice
And a high colour dawning behind the pearl of her face.

Ringlets and ringlets, a curl in every tress
Of her fair hair trailing and brushing the dew on the grass;
And a gem from her birthplace far in the high universe
Outglittering glass and gracing the groove of her breasts.

News that was secret she whispered to soothe her aloneness,
News of one due to return and reclaim his true place,
News of the ruin of those who had cast him in darkness,
News that was awesome, too awesome to utter in verse.

My head got lighter and lighter but still I approached her,
Enthralled by her thraldom, helplessly held and bewildered,
Choking and calling Christ’s name: then she fled in a shimmer
To Luachra Fort where only the glamoured can enter.

I hurtled and hurled myself madly following after
Over keshes and marshes and mosses and treacherous moors
And arrived at that stronghold unsure about how I had got there,
That earthwork of earth the orders of magic once reared.

A gang of thick louts were shouting loud insults and jeering
And a curly-haired coven in fits of sniggers and sneers:
Next thing I was taken and cruelly shackled in fetters
As the breasts of the maiden were groped by a thick-witted boor.

I tried then as hard as I could to make her hear truth,
How wrong she was to be linked to that lazarous swine
When the pride of the pure Scottish stock, a prince of the blood,
Was ardent and eager to wed her and make her his bride.

When she heard me, she started to weep, but pride was the cause
Of those tears that came wetting her cheeks and shone in her eyes;
Then she sent me a guard to guide me out of the fortress,
Who’d appeared to me, lone on the road, a brightening brightness.

Calamity, shock, collapse, heartbreak and grief
To think of her sweetness, her beauty, her mildness, her life
Defiled at the hands of a hornmaster sprung from riff-raff,
And no hope of redress till the lions ride back on the wave.

Aodhgan O’Rathaille, translated by Seamus Heaney

Published by Index On Censorship 30/08/2013:  Index on censorship 30/08/2013