Category Archives: Events

Freedom of Expression in Ireland: A public interview with KEVIN MYERS

Should writers always speak their minds?

Do writers always speak their minds?

Do we have a free press in Ireland, or is the media controlled by a politically correct agenda?


Irish PEN in collaboration with DIT School of Media asks these questions and more in a public interview with Kevin Myers.

 Freedom of Expression in Ireland

8pm on March 14th 2013

 DIT School of Media, Aungier St.



Kevin Myers became a journalist upon leaving UCD, for want of anything else to do. Over forty years later, he remains a journalist for largely the same reason. He has been a newspaper columnist since 1980,and writes four columns a week. He has also reported on the wars in Northern Ireland, where he worked throughout the 1970s, Beirut and Bosnia, and also from Japan, Africa and Czechoslovakia.


Mr Myers was recently the subject of a complaint about an opinion piece on the subject of gay marriage.The complaint, made to the Press Ombudsman, was upheld – the ombudsman found that it breached principle regarding distinguishing fact from fiction and prejudice.This is not the first time that he has been the subject of controversy for his views, ranging from immigration, privatisation, child-rearing and gay rights; and it will not, one suspects, be the last.


Irish PEN is affiliated to PEN International, the worldwide association for writers, and is supported by Dublin City Arts Office. The aims of PEN are to promote literature, defend freedom of expression and promote co-operation among writers. PEN’s membership around the world numbers journalists, novelists, poets essayists and playwrights, as well as those with an interest in writing and communication between writers.

PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee works on behalf of imprisoned, censored and persecuted writers around the globe:  “Because writers speak their minds”.

For over fifty years, the School of Media at DIT has provided innovative educational programmes, earning an international reputation for innovating new courses as media technologies, as well as the way we use media in society, evolve. The School’s graduates emerge with the ability to generate ideas, the knowledge and understanding to develop ideas into concepts, and the production expertise to execute highly accomplished work.

Interviewer Tom Clonan is a lecturer specialising in news journalism, public affairs and crisis management at DIT Aungier St. He is a published author and has written for the Irish Times for the past 11 years, while also working in radio and television broadcasting. He is a retired Army Officer and like Kevin Myers, has experience of conflict in Ireland, the Middle East and former Yugoslavia. No stranger to controversy, Tom is regarded as one of Ireland’s foremost whistleblowers because of his experience of exposing crises in equality and the military in Ireland.


ALL WELCOME – ADMISSION €3/€6

SEATING LIMITED – BOOKING ESSENTIAL AT: http://kevinmyers-irishpen-dit.eventbrite.ie


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John Banville to receive the 2013 Irish PEN Award for Outstanding Achievement in Irish Literature

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: http://irishpendinner2013.eventbrite.com

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.

 

The Irish PEN Award for Literature 2013; request for nominations

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:  https://www.irishpen.com/wordpress/the-irish-pen-2012-award-and-dinner-a-photo-montage/

You can email your nominations to this address : irishpen2@gmail.com 
Postal Address for nominations : c/o Irish PEN Correspondence Secretary, United Arts Club, 3 Upper Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2.

 

 

 

 

Day of the Imprisoned Writer Event on November 15th 2012


Images: Brian Keenan , Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, and Justine McCarthy reading at The Day of the Imprisoned Writer Event in collaboration between Irish PEN and Front Line Defenders. The New Theatre , in Dublin’s Temple Bar.


Day of the Imprisoned Writer
15 November 2012
The New Theatre
43 East Essex St., Temple Bar @ 5.30pm

 

 

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.

 

On 15 November former Beirut hostage and writer Brian Keenan, poet Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill and journalist Justine McCarthy will read from the work of writers based around the world who have been targeted because they had the courage to speak their minds. These writers challenge injustice and confront the governments and oppressive regimes who see every criticism as a threat to their power. The human voice is one of the most powerful weapons in defence of human rights and against tyranny, and the writers whose work will be profiled on November 15 have paid a very high price for their courage including:

 

Chinese poet Zhu Yufu was imprisoned for seven years last December, charged with ‘inciting subversion of state power’. The charges reportedly relate to a poem he wrote, as well as other online writings, interviews he gave to foreign media and donations he collected on behalf of families of people jailed for their pro-democracy and human rights activities.

 

Turkish human rights lawyer and writer Muharrem Erbey has been held in prison since 2009 charged with having links with the illegal PKK. Muharrem Erbey is a writer and columnist and member of the Kurdish Writers’ Association.

 

On 02 September Iranian journalist and women’s rights activist Jila Baniyaghoob began a one year prison term because of her work as a journalist and human rights campaigner, documenting the post-election demonstrations in Iran, and state violence.  Her husband, and fellow journalist, Bahman Ahmadi Amou’i is also in prison because of his work as editor of a leading business magazine.

 

Writers, journalists and poets often force us to confront the reality of the world we live in. They challenge the myths and the self-aggrandising propaganda to expose the truth – the violence and the repression that is inflicted on a daily basis on those who refuse to remain silent in the face of injustice.

 The Imprisoned Writer; readings with Brian Keenan and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, takes place at 5.15pm in Temple Bar’s New Theatre, with light refreshments served in Connolly Books afterwards. This is a co-event with Front Line Defenders, a Dublin-based international organisation dedicated to protecting human rights defenders at risk, people who work, non-violently, for any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Eventbrite Link for this event is at : http://theimprisonedwriter.eventbrite.com/


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International PEN Congress 2012

PEN Members from over 80 countries around the world gather for prominent literary gathering– The 78th PEN International Congress

 The following report on the 78th PEN International Congress is by J. Anthony Gaughan:

The 78th Pen International Congress was held in Gyeongju, South Korea, from 9 to 15 September 2012.  Eighty centres from around the world were represented at the Congress.  The 300 delegates were formally welcomed by Gil-Won Lee, president of Korean Pen.

In his key-note address John Ralston Saul emphasised the crucial role of Pen in defending and safe-guarding freedom of expression, the well-spring of democracy and the foremost bulwark of human rights.  The theme of theCongress was ‘Literature, media and human rights’.  In the light of the remarkable development of digital media Congress approved for distribution a ‘Declaration of Free Expression and Digital Technologies’ which deals with clear and urgent questions about the relationship between digital technologies and freedom of expression.  The Pen principles outlined in the declaration apply to the Internet, blogs, micro-blogs, social networks, email, voice-over, Internet Protocol calling and texting and electronic devices such as computers, cellular phones, smart phones, mini-computers, and tablets.

Reports were presented and discussed at the various committees: Writers for Peace Committee, Writers in Prison Committee, Women Writers’ Committee and Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee.  The reports to the Writers for Peace Committee covered the well-known areas of conflict around the world.  Some were quite enlightening and provided a much more complex picture of these areas than that presented by the Western media outlets. 

The Writers in Prison Committee had to hand on updated list of writers who during the past year had been killed, imprisoned or otherwise victimised for campaigning for and exercising freedom of expression and for their attempts to expose corruption in autocratic regimes of the left and the right.  The steps Pen had taken to assist them was discussed and how efforts to this end could be made more effective.  Resolutions and recommendations advocating the lifting of laws banning freedom of expression and requesting the release of journalists and writers in prison for defending human rights and the exercise of free speech were passed and forwarded to the authorities in Belarus, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Honduras, Iran, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Syria and Vietnam. 

Reports to the Women Writers’ Committee highlighted the continuing appalling plight of women in Islamic countries.  An unusual issue – the proposed international standardisation of the Portuguese language – was brought before the Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee.  This concerned a project by the Portuguese government to fundamentally reform the Portuguese language.  Their stated aim is to make the language more amenable to use in the electronic media and to make it more user-friendly to those speaking it in countries beyond Portugal, such as Brazil, East Timor, Mozambique etc.  Portuguese academics, scholars and writers strongly oppose the project arguing that it will lead to an unacceptable redaction of the language.  After a number of informative presentations the Pen Committee guaranteed its support for their stand.

John Ralston Saul was elected to serve as president for another three years.  The financial statement which indicated a significant credit balance was passed.  It was announced that the next Congress would be held next September at Reykjavik, in Iceland.

PEN International press Release on the 78th PEN International Congress

Gyeongju, Korea– Over 300 delegates have gathered in Korea’s historical city Gyeongju for the 78th PEN International Congress. The Congress was launched by host centre President Gil-Won Lee, which this year explores themes around Literature, Media and Human Rights.

PEN’s diverse and unique community of writers and members gather each year to share ideas, discuss new campaigns and initiatives,highlight emerging issues and challenges to freedom of expression around the world.

The Congress will see keynote speeches by Nobel Laureates , Wole Soyinka and Jean Marie Gustave Le Clezio as well as training sessions and workshops, lectures, literary events and networking sessions. The annual congress is an opportunity for members from all centers to share their diverse expertise and experience.

In his opening speech, PEN International President John Ralston Saul echoed the core purpose of PEN around the world:

 “Through all of [our] work we must constantly remindourselves that our cause is literature.  Literature and freedom of expression are neither a nicety nor a legal technicality.  They are a way of imagining  the relationship between peoples.  Between people.  People who may disagree or dislike each other or, in fact, know nothing about each other.”

 At the opening Ceremony, PEN International announced its Declaration on Free Expression and Digital Technologies, which will address concerns around digital technology, particularly freedom of expression through digital media.

 PEN plays a global role in promoting literature and protecting freedom of expression.

Notes to editors:

PEN International celebrates literature and promotes freedom of expression. Founded in 1921, our global community of writers now comprises 144 Centres spanning more than 100 countries. Our programmes,campaigns, events and publications connect writers and readers for globalsolidarity and cooperation. PEN International is a non-political organizationand holds consultative status at the United Nations and UNESCO.

For press and other enquiries please contact:
PEN International Campaigns & Communications Manager Sahar Halaimzai.
Email: Sahar.Halaimzai@pen-international.org
Tel: +44 (0)20 7405 0338
Mob: +44 (0)7596 767912

Irish PEN mourns the death of novelist Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy 1940-2012 was a previous recipient of the Irish PEN award for literature. She was a popular choice for the PEN Awardin 2007which coincided with the centenary of The United Arts Club, where Irish PEN meets regularly. As a memento of her life and times, we thought to link to the report on her award.

“Novelist Maeve Binchy proved a popular recipient for this year’s Irish Pen AT Cross Award for literature. Presented with the award at a sell-out dinner in the Royal St George Yacht Club on January 19th, she expressed delight at such recognition from her peers. She also promised that on her future visits to bookshops she will ensure that the books of all those present were face out in a prominent position – Booksellers be warned!
An appreciative audience agreed with Declan Kiberd, presenting the award, when he said that “most of [Maeve Binchy’s] stories are about the pangs of adjustment- of what happens to a society that was once God-fearing and traditional when it takes on the messy complexities of the secular,modern world,” adding that hers wasn’t a fake nostalgia for a lost world but “a brave sense that the new challenges are bracing and that good people will find in themselves the resources to meet them”. While never confining her material to Ireland, she has seen it as a test case for the modern world-and the wider world acclaimed her accordingly.”

https://www.irishpen.com/wordpress/2007/02/05/maeve-binchy-wins-irish-pen-at-cross-award-for-literature/

A letter from our membership secretary.

– The Irish PEN AGM takes place at the UAC at 7p.m., Thursday May 10th –
– Members’ news – send us news of this year’s publications, launches and events –
– Writing Memoir event: 8p.m. at the UAC on Thursday, May 10th –

Emer Liston , Irish PEN Membership Secretary

 

” We have had a very eventful and successful year at Irish PEN. From our first event after the summer, Writing for children and young people, through to our Annual PEN Award Dinner at which Joseph O’Connor’s outstanding achievement in literature was marked by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, we’ve enjoyed great company and rich discussion about the work of writing in Ireland today.

At our most recent event, we enjoyed the company of Morgan Llewellyn and Orna Ross in an evening of stories and insight into Historical Fiction and a feast of talent is in store on the 10th of this month, when we look at Writing Memoir, with Molly McCloskey, Lia Mills, Sheila Maher and John MacKenna. This event is proving very popular, and you can conveniently book your place online by clicking here.

Our news section in www.irishpen.com will keep you up to date on our participation in campaigns and letters to publications here in Ireland, including our campaign on blasphemy, and correspondence calling for action in Syria, published in last weekend’s Irish Times.  Meanwhile, please let us know about your news this year – we are compiling our latest newsletter and wish to feature and promote new publications, launches and the successes of all members and associates of PEN. 

 

Finally, and most importantly, our AGM takes place immediately before our Writing Memoir event, at 7 p.m. on May 10th, at the United Arts Club. All members are most welcome to attend.

We look forward to meeting you next Thursday, and hearing your news.”

Warmest regards,
Emer Liston,  Membership Secretary at Irish PEN.

 

Details of our Next Event are carried on our homepage and at this link https://www.irishpen.com/wordpress/our-next-irish-pen-event/

Irish PEN membership and renewal details are available here

European Writers’ Meeting in Wroclaw , April 20th to 22nd 2012.

 

 

Port Literary Festival logo and site

 The Port Literary Festival 2012 will welcome two Irish Poets to read in Wroclaw. I am adding here the site links for interested members and associates of Irish PEN. The link can be translated via the translate button which appears on the top-bar of the Port site. http://www.portliteracki.pl/festiwal/

“This year we will host two great Irish poetsLeontia Flynn and  Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin. They will come to Wroclaw to present poems, which were translated and published in an anthology of Irish poetry published this year by Biuro Literackie.

We would be really pleased if the Irish Pen (Association of Irish Writers) would be willing to assist us in promoting this event abroad Poland.”

We think that Irish poetry shall be better known here in Poland and we would be happy to cooperate with you in this matter.

More information about the festival and poets is available at link : http://www.portliteracki.pl/festiwal/  

Port LITERACKI 2012
17. European Writers’ Meeting
Studio Na Grobli, Na Grobli 30/32, Wrocław
20-22 April 2012

Friday 20.04.2012

18:00 Krystyna MIŁOBĘDZKA
Meeting with the poet and reading from her new book of poems dwanaście wierszy w kolorze. Premieres of two titles: an anthology of plays Gdzie baba siała mak and a collection of critical texts, sketches and interviews with and about the poet Wielogłos. Krystyna Miłobędzka w recenzjach, szkicach, rozmowach.

19:30 6 POETS FROM IRELAND
Reading from an anthology of poems by 6 Irish poets Sześć poetek irlandzkich: Leontia Flynn, Medbh McGuckian, Paula Meehan, Sinéad Morrissey, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill translated by Jerzy Jarniewicz. Meeting with the translator and two special festival guests from Ireland: Leontia Flynn and Eiléan NÍ Chuilleanáin.

21:00 Jane BOWLES and Laura (RIDING) Jackson
Reading from a book by Jane Bowles Dwie poważne damy. W letnim domku (Two Serious Ladies. In the Summerhouse) translated by Andrzej Sosnowski and two books with selected works by Laura (Riding) Jackson: Korona dla Hansa Andersena. Utwory wybrane: opowiadania and Obroty cudów. Utwory wybrane: wiersze i eseje translated by Julia FIEDORCZUK. Meeting with the translators.

22:30 SHOOT A POEM
Screenings of short films from the competition “Shoot a Poem” for the best film adaptation of Krystyna Miłobędzka’s poem and the awards ceremony.

Saturday 21.04.2012

14:00 THE CATCH 2011
Reading from the book Połów. Poetyckie debiuty 2011. Meeting with the budding poets: Kamil BREWIŃSKI, Maciej BURDA, Szymon DOMAGAŁA-JAKUĆ, Katarzyna FETLIŃSKA, Jakub GŁUSZAK, Grzegorz JĘDREK, Katarzyna KACZMAREK, Adrian SINKOWSKI, Maciej TARANEK, and Joanna ŻABNICKA.

15:00 James SCHUYLER and Ezra POUND
Reading from selected poems by James Schuyler Trzy poematy translated by Marcin Sendecki, Andrzej SOSNOWSKI and Bohdan ZadurA as well as a collection of poetic texts by Ezra Pound Wiersze, poematy i Pieśni translated by Leszek Engelking. Meeting with the translators.

16:30 BALLA and Andrij BONDAR
Reading from books by Balla, Świadek and Podszepty, translated by Jacek Bukowski as well as Andrij Bondar’s Historie ważne i nieważne translated by Bohdan Zadura. Meeting with two special festival guests from Slovakia and Ukraine, and the translators.

18:00 Urszula KOZIOŁ, Jacek ŁUKASIEWICZ and Janusz STYCZEŃ
Reading from new books by three Wrocław poets: Fuga (1955-2010), Stojąca na ruinie and Furia instynktu.

19:30 Edmund WHITE
Reading from books by Edmund White: Hotel de Dream, Zapominanie Eleny (Forgetting Elena), Zuch (A Boy’s Own Story) translated by Jacek Dehnel and Piotr Tarczyński, Andrzej Sosnowski, Jerzy Jarniewicz. Meeting with the special festival guest from the United States and the translators.

21:00 John ASHBERY and John CAGE
Reading from selected poems by Johna Ashbery Cztery poematy and John Cage’s Przeludnienie i sztuka translated and presented by Andrzej Sosnowski.

22:30 MUSIC FROM BOOKS
Concert given by the Avant-garde Orchestra of Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Wroclaw “Sound Factory Orchestra”.

Sunday 22.04.2012

14:00 Tadeusz NOWAK, Maria PAWLIKOWSKA-JASNORZEWSKA, Władysław SEBYŁA
Reading from books with selected poems by three classic Polish authors: Psalmy i inne wiersze, Seans na dnie morza and Dialog w ciemności published in the “44. Polish Poetry Revisited” series. Meeting with the authors of the selections: Bohdan Zadura, Marta PODGÓRNIK and Wojciech Bonowicz.

15:00 Justyna BARGIELSKA, Jacek DEHNEL and Dariusz SUSKA
Reading from new poetic books by the three authors: Bach for my baby, Rubryki strat i zysków and Duchy dni.

16:30 Gottfried BENN and Bertolt BRECHT
Reading from selected works by Gottfried Benn Nigdy samotniej i inne wiersze (1912-1955) translated by Jacek St. Buras, Zdzisław Jaskuła, Andrzej Kopacki, Sława Lisiecka, Tomasz Ososiński and selected poems by Bertolt Brecht Ten cały Brecht translated by Jacek St. Buras, Jakub EKIER, Andrzej Kopacki and Piotr Sommer. Meeting with the translators.

18:00 Tadeusz PIÓRO, Marcin SENDECKI and Eugeniusz TKACZYSZYN-DYCKI
Reading from new poetic books by the three poets: O dwa kroki stąd (1992-2011), Farsz and Imię i znamię.

19:30 Laurie Anderson
Reading from selected works by Laurie ANDERSON Język przyszłości translated by Julia Fiedorczuk. Meeting with the special festival guest from the United States and the translator.

Open afternoon for writers on Saturday 31st March at the Irish Writers Centre

Organised by the Irish Writers Union

Free Open Afternoon Workshops

All are welcome

When :  2-4:30pm, Saturday 31 March

Where :  Irish Writers Centre

      19 Parnell Square,

      .Dublin 2

.
2- 2:30          LECTURE:   ‘Copyright Law in Ireland’

A talk by Ronan Sheehan, novelist and solicitor, co-founder of Irish Writers Co-op.

2:30-2:45 –   questions and comments from the attendees; organise workshops


3 -3:45 pm – WORKSHOPS : 
join a facilitated workshop on one of the following:

A. Children’s Literature – facilitated by Conor Kostick

B. Irish Language Writing- facilitated by Alan Titley

C. Pros and Cons of Internet publishing/social media/blogs for  writers – facilitated by Chris Murray, webmaster for PEN

D. Performance poetry and innovative forms of writing – facilitated by poet Máighréad Medbh

3:45-4pm each group sum up the key discussion points and any conclusions

4-4:30pm: Brief reports back from workshops to total group

This event is organised by the Irish Writer’s Union and is an open event,  for more information please contact :  Irish Writers’ Union, 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1.

PH 086 233 00 84

Email , iwu@ireland-writers.com

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


 

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.