Donal Ryan among winners of EU literature prize for ‘The Spinning Heart’

Irish Heritage Trust wins Cultural Heritage prize for work on Fota House project

Ireland's literary and cultural achievements were recognised by two separate EU bodies in London and The Hague on Tuesday as writer Donal Ryan and the Irish Heritage Trust scooped two EU awards.

Tipperary-born Donal Ryan was one of 12 writers awarded the 2015 European Union Prize for Literature at the London Book Fair for his novel, The Spinning Heart. The €5,000 prize is awarded to emerging contemporary writers in Europe.

Meanwhile, the Irish Heritage Trust was named as a winner of the 2015 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage for its work on the walled garden project at Fota House in Cork. Some 28 projects were selected from 263 applications from across Europe. The awards are run by Europa Nostra, the European federation of heritage organizations.

The Irish Heritage Trust acquired the Fota estate in 2008, and began embarking on a restoration and conservation project. Supported by a team of local volunteers, the Irish Heritage Trust completed the restoration project in 2011, including the restoration of the walled gardens. The Europa Nostra judging panel praised the Fota redevelopment as “an example of practical public volunteer involvement in a heritage project.”


Donal Ryan's novel The Spinning Heart was published in 2012 and short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. It was also named as the Bord Gais Energy Book of the year. The novel tells the story of the tensions that surface in an Irish town in the aftermath of the financial crash through a myriad of different voices.

Irish writers Mary Costello and Deirdre Sullivan had also been nominated for the EU award which recognises emerging talent in contemporary literature.

In addition to €5,000 in prize money, winners are also encouraged to apply for EU funding to translate the winning books into other languages.

Announcing the winners in London, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said that the award were the only one of its kind dedicated to writers from all over Europe.

“We are helping literature cross borders and enabling readers to enjoy the wealth of writing talent we have. This is crucial: Literature opens the mind, allowing us to come closer together and understand each other better, which is now more vital than ever.”

Kevin Baird, chief executive of the Irish Heritage Trust, said the organisation was honoured to have been recognised by the Hague-based organisation.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys also congratulated the Irish Heritage Trust.

“It is fantastic to see Ireland’s cultural heritage being recognised on the international stage. Our rich cultural heritage is a key driver for our growing tourism sector and winning this award should help to make Fota as even more popular destination.”

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent