Arts Council cut to O’Brien Press


Sir, – I do not represent the O’Brien Press, nor am I attempting to speak for it. Nonetheless, as a writer, I was astounded to learn (December 5th) that the Arts Council had reduced grant aid to this publisher by a whopping 84 per cent. Now correct me if I am wrong, but is this the same council that has had a hand in initiating the very first Irish fiction laureateship? Do they not do irony in Merrion Square?

 For more than four decades, the O’Brien Press has been a leading Irish publisher of poetry, fiction and children’s books. It does not need me to sing its praises or trumpet its achievements. But no doubt the Arts Council would wish to be praised for its own mighty work in highlighting Ireland’s literary profile.

The council has exercised a “scorched earth” policy concerning literature for quite some time, reducing or killing off even the most modest of grants to literature festivals, scuppering the hopes of small but energetic publishers.

The grant to the O’Brien Press should be restored to what it was formerly and as soon as possible. The reduction of the grant is as disgraceful as it is inexplicable. One might wonder yet again whether the council is not merely interested in an exportable cultural image rather than the promotion of literature. This latest Merrion Square fiasco makes an utter nonsense of the much-heralded, God help us, Irish fiction laureateship. – Yours, etc,