Dublin throws swell party to mark City of Literature status


A CHANCE remark by writer Dermot Bolger’s late wife was recalled last night during one of the events to mark Dublin’s designation as a Unesco City of Literature.

Bernie Bolger died suddenly last May at the age of 50 following a collapse while swimming. “Her death was a total shock to us and she had no warning of it,” her husband subsequently wrote.

Previously, while out strolling with her family, she had expressed interest in going to an event in the Conference Centre Dublin (CCD).

Last night at DublinSwell in the CCD, Mr Bolger read Venice, a poem in his late wife’s honour. It was the only piece of writing he has been able to complete since her death, he said.

The poem juxtaposes the circumstances of her death with the happiest day of her life when, as a 19-year-old, she fell asleep on a train and ended up in Venice unexpectedly.

Mr Bolger was accompanied by the couple’s two sons, musicians Diarmuid and Donnacha, who wrote a song, Sad, Beautiful World,about their mother’s death.

The Bolgers were among the performers at an event that was also part of the St Patrick’s Festival. A capacity crowd of 2,000 turned out for a galaxy of Irish writers and singers that included Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, film director and writer Neil Jordan, novelist Roddy Doyle and singers Damien Dempsey and Lisa Hannigan.

Organiser Maureen Kennelly said there were requests for tickets from as far away as the US and the Philippines.

She described it as the first “landmark event” to take place since Unesco conferred City of Literature status on Dublin last July. “The phone was ringing off the hook with people gasping for tickets,” she said.

President Mary McAleese, who opened the event, said the diversity of writers involved demonstrated Dublin was still home to a “litany of world-class writers”.

Novelist Sebastian Barry, who read from his novel A Long Long Way, which focuses on Dublin during the first World War, said he was delighted to share the stage with so many luminaries.

He said the turnout was a recognition that the City of Literature designation meant something not just to the people involved, but also to Dublin’s writers.

“There are a lot of things that don’t seem to mean very much but this seems to mean a great deal,” he said.