WHEN writer Sebastian Barry was nominated some years ago for a British literary award, half way through the night he leaned over to his wife and said: "I'm not going to win, let's just enjoy the chocolates." He went on, naturally, to win.
Last night, there was no doubt of his success when he was inducted into the Hennessy Literary Awards Hall of Fame by President Mary McAleese, joining such previous illustrious winners Anne Enright, Frank McGuinness, Neil Jordan and Dermot Bolger.
The overall Hennessy New Irish Writer Award last night, meanwhile, went to Siobhan Mannion.
At a gala event at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham in Dublin, Ciaran Carty, New Irish Writing Editor of the ' Irish Independent', quipped that back in 1982, two emerging writers had caught his eye. One was Sebastian Barry, and the other was a Belfast writer who had penned a story about the Troubles. "Her name was Mary McAleese," he said.
Best known for his haunting portrayals of "scraps of people, blown off the road of life by history's hungry breezes", Sebastian Barry sprang to international attention with his play, 'The Stewart of Christendom'.
He also caused a stir when he penned 'Hinterland' -- a play drawing inspiration from the life of Charles Haughey.
His novel 'A Long Long Way' was shortlisted for the 2005 Man Booker Prize while his novel 'The Secret Scripture' saw him scoop two literary awards.
Present at the event were Maurice Hennessy, Brand Ambassador de la Maison of Hennessy, poet Paul Durcan, artist Robert Ballagh and Kathy Gilfillan, wife of Paul McGuinness.
Representing the Irish Independent were Frank Coughlan, deputy managing editor of the Irish Independent; Peter Carvosso, features editor; Ciaran Carty of the New Irish Writing page; John Spain, books editor; and Debbie Brennan of the 'Eureka' supplement.
And a special surprise award was made to Ciaran Carty for his contribution to Irish writing. Mr Carty was touched when he was presented with the award by writer Joseph O'Connor, who said the idea of honouring Mr Carty had been made "at the request of the hundreds of writers he has helped" over the years.
In association with the Irish Independent and now celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Hennessy Awards have recognised and rewarded emerging Irish writers.
Meanwhile, Siobhan Mannion impressed the judges with her piece 'Lightning Bugs', taking the prize in the First Fiction category.
Winner of the emerging poetry category was Afric McGlinchey for her work 'Do Not Lie To A Lover'/'Under The Heart, A Horseshoe Shape'. Hailing from Kinsale, Co Cork, she is working toward her first collection.
In the emerging fiction category, Eileen Casey from South County Dublin impressed the judges with her submission, 'Macaw'.
Each category winner received a trophy and €1,500, while the New Writer of the Year received an additional €2,500.