The shortlist for the 25th Christopher Ewart-Biggs Literary Prize features books about the Border; Bloody Sunday; how the BBC reflected and influenced the Troubles; the Sunningdale power-sharing agreement; conflict in Kerry; the Ulster Protestant imagination; and a collection of poetry.
The winner of the prize, worth £5000, will be announced on April 11th in Belfast. The prize was instituted in memory of the British ambassador to Ireland who was murdered by the IRA in 1976. This year the work eligible covers the years 2015 to 2017.
In arriving at a final shortlist the judges stressed that they had chosen works that embodied the objectives of the prize, which are to promote and encourage peace and reconciliation in Ireland, a greater understanding between the peoples of Britain and Ireland, or closer co-operation between the partners of the European Community. These are the ideals which inspired Christopher Ewart-Biggs and to which his widow Jane subsequently dedicated herself.
Speaking for the judges, Prof Roy Foster said: ‘This year’s shortlist once again reflects a wide range of genres, though the themes of memory and history predominate. There is an important study of the Sunningdale power-sharing initiative, by someone closely involved at the time; a memoir of Derry’s Bloody Sunday, from an unbearably close vantage-point; a study of the local history of the Irish revolution, blending family and national experience; an original and atmospheric social history of the Irish border; a collection of poems from a distinguished poet who has observed his surroundings with a powerful and consistent intensity over many years; a pioneering study of the Ulster Protestant imagination, concentrating on drama but suggesting much wider implications; and an analysis of the way television both reflected and influenced the Troubles.
“Each of these works represents the kind of creative analytical effort which the Ewart-Biggs Prize was founded to recognise.”
Noel Dorr, Sunningdale: the search for peace in Northern Ireland (Royal Irish Academy)
Tony Doherty, This Man's Wee Boy: a childhood memoir of peace and trouble in Derry (Mercier Press)
Fergal Keane, Wounds: a memoir of war and love (William Collins)
Peter Leary, Unapproved Routes: histories of the Irish Border 1922-1972 (Oxford University Press)
Frank Ormsby, Goat's Milk: new and selected poems (Bloodaxe)
Connal Parr, Inventing the Myth: political passions and the Ulster Protestant imagination (Oxford University Press)
Robert Savage, The BBC's 'Irish Troubles': television, conflict and Northern Ireland (Manchester University Press)
This year there will also be a special award in recognition of a body of work which has advanced the ideals to which the prize is dedicated.