On 28th April, Poetry Day Ireland, a team of Board members tweeted extracts from work by poets from Myanmar at regular intervals throughout the day.
Since our last newsletter we have issued statements in response to the shocking rendition of journalist and blogger Roman Protasevich and student Sofia Sapega in Belarus and sent messages of support to our colleagues in PEN Belarus.
“Irish PEN/PEN n hÉireann utterly condemns the actions of the Belarus Administration in forcing the diversion of a Ryanair flight for the purpose of extracting and holding a journalist and his companion.”
We also issued a statement against the online harrassment of journalists on Social Media, quoted by Martina Devlin in her Irish Independent column on Saturday 15th May: “Irish PEN unreservedly condemns online attacks on journalists, which have real and damaging effects on writer’s ability to work and speak freely. Such attacks represent a direct threat to freedoms of thought and speech and by extension, to democracy itself.”
In this context, we’d like to draw your attention to Julie Posetti’s UNESCO document on violence/harassment against female journalists: The Chilling
and to The English PEN paper on Online Harms:
On 20th May 2021, we joined 49 other PEN Centres in a statement calling for the release of Osman Kavala .
Our co-operation with PEN Centres in England, Scotland and Wales continues, with exchanges of news and ideas and some co-operative actions, along with plans for future joint projects.
Our Freedom to Write sub-committee has joined the TURKEY ACTION GROUP. A representative attended the first meeting of this group which was both deeply interesting, as we learned of the work of other Centres, and alarming as we heard of the further erosion of rights in Turkey.
Members of the Board attended the Writers for Peace conference via Zoom, 9-11 June.
The aims of Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann are: to promote literature in and about Ireland both nationally and internationally; to defend worldwide the right of writers to responsible freedom of expression as defined in the PEN Charter; and to foster international understanding through the appreciation of literature.
In 2019, the Freedom to Write Campaign was asked to take over running Irish PEN by the outgoing committee. We agreed to set up a steering committee to set up a new organization, Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann, with new structures but still adhering to the principles of PEN International and the PEN Charter, on which the Freedom to Write Campaign was based.
Over the intervening months we have set up a Company Limited by Guarantee, a prerequisite for applying for Charitable Status. We have continued to be active in support of writers who are at risk or in prison because of their writing and we have fostered links with other writers’ associations in Ireland such as the Irish Writers’ Union, Aontas na Scríbhneoirí Gaeilge and the Letters With Wings project. We are also in close and continuing contact with our colleagues in PEN Centres in England, Scotland and Wales. A Newsletter will go out to current Members in November with more details.
(The new Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann was launched at an online Zoom event to mark the Day of the Imprisoned Writer: Sunday, 15th November at 7:00 pm)