Thursday 23 November 2017

Irish awards reflect spirit and energy

Excitement is growing as shortlisted writers for Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards are named, says Andrea Byrne

WONDERFUL: RTE's John Murray, Clodagh Feehan of Mercier
Press and 'Adam's World of Wonder’ author Benji Bennett
WONDERFUL: RTE's John Murray, Clodagh Feehan of Mercier Press and 'Adam's World of Wonder’ author Benji Bennett

Andrea Byrne

On Thursday morning, in the Merrion Room of the RDS, Ireland's literary talent from stalwarts to newcomers, publishers to booksellers, gathered excitedly for the announcement of the shortlists for the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards.

"As a literary nation, Ireland has few equals," remarked the chairman of the awards John Treacy.

For David Kirwan, managing director of Bord Gais, the shortlist was "an Aladdin's cave for book-lovers".

The awards, which are now in their sixth incarnation, takes place on November 17, with the public being given the arduous task of choosing the winners.

Despite being recognised on an international level, approval in Ireland is of utmost importance to Sebastian Barry, who has been nominated for the Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year for his latest novel, On Canaan's Side.

"On Monday we were shortlisted for Author of the Year for the British National Book awards, and that was lovely, but it's probably closer to what your heart desires to be part of your national book awards," he told me.

Meanwhile, Joe Duffy is "thrilled" to be nominated for the Argosy Irish Non-Fiction Book of the Year for his recently published autobiography.

"I can't believe the reaction. I was very nervous about how it would be received. You're open to criticism, and I'm sure there will be criticism, but it's out there now, I can't take it back," he laughed.

The nomination for The Newcomer of the Year category, which is sponsored by the Sunday Independent, has left Orla Tinsley, "flabbergasted".

"I am kind of still processing it all," said the brave cystic fibrosis campaigner, "People have really responded very positively to it. I couldn't have imagined it would go this well."

Unsurprisingly, Orla has been bitten by the literary bug, and hopes to write fiction in the not too distant future.

For fellow nominee Sarah Harte, being recognised by the industry is a real confidence booster and "validation" at such an early stage in her career. Sarah has just handed in the first draft of her second novel, which she hopes will be in the shops in April 2012.

This year, for the first time, RTE will be broadcasting the highlights of the awards on Thursday, November 24, at 10.45pm.

Also, Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney will be honoured for his contribution to Ireland's literature with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

"We are daily reminded of the economic reality, but even in these hard times, our industry continues to produce books of the highest quality which keeps readers buying and borrowing," concluded Mr Treacy. "The Irish creative spirit is unquenchable. If bankers were half as good at doing their job as our authors, publishers and booksellers, we might not be in the sorry mess we're in today."

Votes can be cast until midnight on November 13, via

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