Thursday 20 June 2019

Legal career is no bar to literary success

John Spain Books Editor

If a prominent lawyer ever needs to earn a little extra money then he could have a future as a writer.

Michael O'Higgins, SC, was one of the winners at the Hennessy XO Literary Awards ceremony at Dublin's Four Seasons Hotel yesterday.

The annual awards are mainly for new Irish writing and O'Higgins won the Best First Fiction section for his short story, appropriately titled (for a lawyer), 'The Great Escape.'

O'Higgins has been involved in a number of very high-profile cases, including securing the acquittal of John Gilligan some years ago. He represented the prominent republican Thomas 'Slab' Murphy in a taxation case earlier this year; and he memorably took apart Frank Dunlop at the Flood Tribunal.

However, O'Higgins has always been interested in writing. Before he began at the Bar, he dabbled in a career in journalism, working for 'Hot Press' and 'Magill' and securing a famous interview with Martin Cahill -- the General -- in 1986. He has, however, one shortcoming for a writer or journalist -- he does not drink or smoke.

"I have been dabbling in story writing, which is very different from journalism, for the last two or three years", he said yesterday. "I find it very relaxing. You always have a bit of adrenaline left over after a day in court. I would switch on the laptop late at night and find myself still on it hours later."

He said that his winning story is set at Mountjoy.

"It's about a prison officer who is on escort duty (taking) a prisoner to hospital. While he is there the officer has an encounter with his girlfriend in a cubicle. But what happens is recorded on a mobile phone and ends up on You Tube."

At the awards ceremony, Man Booker winner Anne Enright was announced as the latest inductee into the Hennessy XO Hall of Fame.

The top award, the 2007 Hennessy XO New Irish Writer Award, was presented to Valerie Sirr from Waterford for her story 'Summer Rain'.

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