Monday 23 October 2017

Wife killer Eamonn Lillis wins top short story prize

Eamonn Lillis. Photo Collins
Eamonn Lillis. Photo Collins
Two of Lillis's watercolour paintings were exhibited in Kilmainham Gaol
Celine Cawley pictured shortly before her death
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

THE initial 'E' is the only clue to the identity of the author -- that and the postscript that it was the short story winner in the 'Writing in Prisons' section.

The essay describes the experience of someone on the run, from something or someone, filled with an anxiety that can only be known by the hunted.

Perhaps convicted wife killer Eamonn Lillis was speaking from experience. Or maybe he simply drew from his writer's craft to paint a picture in words of an imagined experience.

No doubt anyone reading 'Being's Road' will pour over its contents looking for some insight into the mind of a killer.

The essay by Lillis scooped the short story competition in Listowel Writers' Week, sponsored by the Irish Prison Service.

Guarded

It appears in Listowel Writers' Week 'Winners' Anthology 2012', a closely guarded work that became available to the public for the first time last night.

Organisers of the literary festival had guarded it more closely than the Third Secret of Fatima.

Its contents, and particularly the contribution by Lillis, had been the subject of much curiosity in the lead-up to Listowel Writers' Week, which opened in the town last night.

Lillis's work is published alongside the work of luminaries such as Bryan MacMahon, Kevin Barry, Anne Enright, Carlo Gebler and winner of the Kerry Group Irish Novel award, Christine Dwyer Hickey.

"I knew I shouldn't waste any more precious time and lose my headstart, but I'd become aware of a desire to linger, to see things as they stood and not hurtling past the edge of my vision," writes 'E'.

"For the first time my eyes weren't drawn back to the way I'd come, straining with apprehension. Something, some instinct informed me that I'd thrown off my pursuit, they'd taken a turn further back and were long since gone in another direction, fruitlessly seeking and I knew they'd never pick up my trail again."

Since his incarceration at Wheatfield Prison for the manslaughter of his wife Celine Cawley (46), Lillis (55) has had lots of time to devote to the arts.

Apart from this foray into literary competition, he also dabbles in visual and performance art and is using his six years and 11 months sentence productively. Two of his watercolour paintings were exhibited as part of the 'Crushed Bull' exhibition in Kilmainham Gaol in March. One was later defaced.

He also worked as a stagehand in a production of Oscar Wilde's 'The Happy Prince' that was staged for President Michael D Higgins that month.

Lillis is now two years into the sentence that was handed down to him in 2010 for battering his wife to death on the patio of their Howth, Co Dublin home in December 2008.

He will receive a Cross pen on his release from prison, his prize for winning the literary award.

Irish Independent

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