President opens Listowel literary week


THE ROLES of the artist and of contemporary Irish literature in particular in rebuilding the country and the economy were underlined last night by President Michael D Higgins when he opened the 41st Listowel Writers’ Weekin Co Kerry.

Writers were “huge reputational assets”, and creativity should not be marginalised in society but should be embraced, Mr Higgins said.

“Creativity and a cultural sensitivity are ingredients of society that should not be marginalised but should be embraced to bring about a new sense of solidarity. It should inspire and empower us as we work to restore both our economy and international confidence in that rebuilt economy – an economy that is not ‘de-peopled’ nor predicated on the needs and demands of the market at the expense of all else”.

Events like Listowel Writers’ Week were important for writers in easing the essential loneliness of the writer, Mr Higgins said.

It was 10 years since the death of John B Keane, “one of Ireland’s best-loved writers”, said the President, recalling how the Kerry author wrote for the student publication he once edited and how Keane had arranged for fellow Listowel writer Bryan MacMahon to launch a Michael D Higgins book when Keane was unable do it himself.

Listowel Writers’ Week, the country’s longest-running literary festival, this year marks the tenth anniversary of John B Keane’s death with many events celebrating his life and work, including a cinematic tribute on Friday night presenting the highlights of Keane’s works at the Classic Cinema.

A two-hour literary walking tour each morning is likely to be one of the most popular attractions at the festival.

The festival continues until Sunday with appearances by Germaine Greer, Patrick deWitt, Simon Armitage, Carol Birch, Anne Enright, Paul Howard, John Lanchester, Colm Tóibín, Jeremy Strong and Orla Tinsley.

It also features theatre, art exhibitions, a choice of bus tours, book launches, lectures and a children’s festival.

The Dubliners will perform a concert on Saturday.

Other details are available on

Prize Winners

Christine Dwyer Hickey’s The Cold Eye of Heaven has been awarded the €15,000 Kerry Group Novel of the Year Award.

Her story beat competition from Belinda McKeon, Kevin Barry, Anne Enright and Carlo Gebler. Dwyer Hickey has twice been a winner of Listowel’s short story competition. Poet Anthony Cronin was given the John B Keane Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to literature. Other winners of this year’s prizes include Dolores Walsh, who won the prestigious Bryan MacMahon short story competition. Jim Lucanson won the Eamon Keane full-length play award, and Peggie Gallagher took the poetry collection prize.