Irish literati gather to honour the 'masters of language and dream weavers' at awards show
'It's been a weird, weird week for all of us - and over the next four years we'll need you," Ryan Tubridy told his audience of writers, publishers, editors and booksellers as he presented the first gong of the night (his Listeners' Choice, which went to Liz Nugent's Lying in Wait) at the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards last Wednesday.
The red carpet at the DoubleTree by Hilton did its duty as a parade of personalities came out to play: novelists Sebastian Barry, Maggie O'Farrell, Emily Hourican, Donal Ryan and Cecelia Ahern, media heads Gay Byrne, John Bowman and Pippa O'Connor, food writers Sophie White, Indy Power and Roz Purcell and sporting heroes Paul O'Connell (who won for his book The Battle), Jason McAteer, Donal Lenihan, and Cathal McCarron.
References to the Trump tsunami punctuated the evening, with John Montague quoting Yeats: "the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity". John the Beloved, as Christine Dwyer Hickey called him, was given the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award for his distinguished career in poetry.
An equally lengthy stint wielding the pen was celebrated by Jilly Cooper who, accepting the BGE International Recognition Award, told us "I'm in love with Ireland."
Cooper's citation was delivered by Marian Keyes who went on to win Ireland AM's non-fiction prize for Making It Up as I Go Along - indeed, her declaration that so excited was she by Jilly's presence that "I'd forgotten I was up for a yoke myself" seemed to bear out her book's title.
There was a distinctly giddy atmosphere, helped by a champagne reception and gin-infused salmon but our hostess Keelin Shanley, consummately elegant in crimson, got these "masters of language and dream weavers" as BGE managing director Dave Kirwan described them, to sit down to their beef and bearnaise.
"Granny is delighted," declared a visibly moved Kathleen Watkins as she accepted her award for Pigin of Howth, the book that came out of her bedtime tales to her grandchildren.
Jane Clarke who got the glassware for her poem In Glasnevin spoke for all of us when she remarked how "wonderful it is to have poetry at last represented". And Mike McCormack, hot on the heels of scooping the £10,000 Goldsmith Prize, received the Eason Book Club Novel of the Year, informing us he'd no memory of writing of Solar Bones but that, six hours after he sent it to his agent, he became a father. And with that it was time for the real partying to begin...
To vote for BGE Irish Book of the Year, log on to bgeirishbookawards.ie and select your favourite from the award category winners