The Irish Times view on Ireland’s latest Booker success: Paul Lynch’s home-grown success

The Arts Council directly supported his writing of Prophet Song, allowing Lynch to join a select group of Irish writers to win the award

Success has many fathers. Failure is an orphan. So the family tree of Ireland’s latest literary success, Paul Lynch’s Booker Prize for his latest novel, Prophet Song, is a mighty oak. He joins an elite club whose Irish members include Anne Enright, Anna Burns, Roddy Doyle, John Banville and Iris Murdoch.

As well as Lynch’s innate talent and imagination, there is the commitment of his London-based editor and publisher, Juliet Mabey of Oneworld, to champion writers who are less obviously commercial. And, as Lynch was quick to graciously acknowledge in his acceptance speech on Sunday night, home-grown support has also been a vital factor in sustaining his career as a writer. The Arts Council has directly supported his writing of Prophet Song through bursaries as well as funding his current role as Maynooth University’s Writer in Residence.

And of course Lynch is far from alone. Fellow Irish author Paul Murray made this year’s shortlist, while Elaine Feeney and Sebastian Barry were longlisted. It is only fair to acknowledge when Government gets something right. State funding for the arts, in particular literature, is a case in point. Support for individual writers is only part of a creative infrastructure that includes funding for small publishers, book festivals, libraries and support organisations such as the Irish Writers Centre and Literature Ireland.

There is also a thriving network of creative writing courses at third level. And let us not forget the contribution of newspapers, not just for their literary coverage, but also for their championing of the importance of good writing.


Just as Graham Greene served his apprenticeship as a writer during four years as a sub-editor on the Times, Paul Lynch started out as deputy chief sub-editor on the Sunday Tribune, following in the footsteps of fellow Booker winner John Banville, who subbed at the Irish Press and later on The Irish Times.

It is from this milieu that Ireland’s latest Booker winner emerged. Here’s to Paul Lynch and Prophet Song.