O'Connor to receive Irish Pen prize from President


NOVELIST JOSEPH O’Connor will tonight be awarded the Irish Pen Prize by President Michael D Higgins.

The author of Ghost Lightand Star of the Seawill be the 14th recipient of the prize, awarded every year to an Irish writer who has a significant body of work.

Previous winners include Brian Friel, William Trevor, Neil Jordan, Seamus Heaney, Jennifer Johnston, Maeve Binchy and Colm Tóibín.

O’Connor said yesterday that he was “honoured and touched” to receive the award, because it is voted for by the “readers and writers” who are members of Irish Pen, affiliated to an international body that promotes literature and defends freedom of expression.

He added: “I’m also delighted because of the really great people who have won it before – some of my touchstones as a kid and as a writer, such as John McGahern, William Trevor, Edna O’Brien and John B Keane. So, I feel it’s very over-generous to include my work in there.”

O’Connor, the author of seven novels, has also written for the stage and screen, as well as several books of non-fiction. His 2004 novel Star of the Seahas sold more than a million copies and been translated into 38 languages, as well as winning a number of international awards.

His most recent novel, Ghost Light, was chosen as Dublin’s One City One Book novel for 2011.

Several Irish writers, including former winners, will gather at tonight’s dinner at Dublin’s Royal St George Yacht Club, where President Higgins will also be awarded honorary membership of Irish Pen.

According to the organisation, an empty chair at the event will “symbolise silenced writers around the world who are imprisoned, denied free speech, prohibited from travelling, or who have been ‘disappeared’, tortured or murdered”.