Joseph O’Connor is honoured with Irish PEN Award


Joseph O'Connor 'honoured' and 'deeply touched' when given an award by Irish PEN on Friday 10 February, 2012  for Services to Irish Literature. The award was presented by President of Ireland Dr. Michael D Higgins, who also received honorary membership of Irish PEN.

President of Ireland Dr. Michael D Higgins said of Joseph O'Connor:

'Tonight, I am truly delighted to be joining you to honour one of those great Irish diplomats of literature, renowned abroad and loved at home as one of our greatest and most popular contemporary writers....

He is a brilliant writer and an accessible one. He is an urban realist who also delves beautifully and imaginatively into a past that defines so much of our national character. He is a talented writer, and a truly courageous one, a writer who takes risks, who tries new things, who is determined to constantly stretch and challenge himself, who never ever takes his great and unique gift for granted.'

Commenting on Joseph's wide array of works, President of Ireland Dr. Michael D Higgins noted that GHOST LIGHT 'not only beautifully tells the story of a doomed love affair between John Millington Synge and Molly Allgood, it also evocatively captures the spirit of a society in crisis in all its political, cultural and social turmoil. In Molly Allgood Joe has surely depicted one of the most compelling female characters in modern literary fiction and her decline and death in the novel is unbearably moving. There is no doubt that Joe O'Connor is one of the brightest stars among a brilliant constellation of contemporary Irish writing.'

Joseph spoke of the 'wonderful honour' he felt in receiving this award:

'I'm of course deeply touched to win any award that was won in its time by some of my boyhood heroes in writing; some of the truly great writers - people like John McGahern, William Trevor, Edna O'Brien and John B. Keane, and I owe them so very much. I thank their great presences - they were writers who understood that all writing is about the reader and that empathy is at the heart of the story and the world. The writer makes the sheet music, but the reader sings the song. And so to be given this award by Irish PEN, part of a wonderful organisation that campaigns for writers all over the world is to be reminded of the undying value at the heart of great literature. It's to be reminded that we read to know that we're not alone, to realise that another human being is real, for enlightenment, knowledge, to escape, to come home, and for that most subversive of all reasons, simple pleasure...

Every writer knows that trying to write is trying to make a ship sail, you work hard on the planning, and the building, and the finishing, and you freight your story with your hopes, you push it out into the water, someday, maybe, it will reach the harbour of another person, and tonight, thanks to you at Irish PEN, I feel that one of my boyhood ships came home.'

Joseph was joined by his wife, scriptwriter and novelist Anne Marie Casey, his parents, Sean and Viola O'Connor, his publisher from Vintage Liz Foley and his agent Carole Blake among many other honourable guests including the Director of PEN International, Laura McVeigh. To find out more about the event and about writing in Ireland in general, please view the online Irish writing magazine and resources website, To view more photos, please click here.

The Irish PEN Award celebrates Irish born writers who have made outstanding contributions to Irish Literature. The winner is nominated and chosen by the members of Irish PEN as well as by previous winners of the award.

GHOST LIGHT, Joseph's most recent work, was published in 2010 and was chosen as Dublin's One Book, One City in April 2011. His next work, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?, a collection of stories and a novella, will be published by Harvill Secker later this year.

Photo Credit: Moya Nolan