'Investing in our future gives recognition to the value of art and creativity'
Hailed as one of the most important poets of her generation, Kerrie O'Brien is a shining example of creativity in Ireland.
Ms O'Brien welcomes the Government's new social welfare pilot scheme that allows writers and artists easier access to social welfare payments.
Speaking at the launch of the scheme with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, she said: "Being on social welfare while trying to be a full-time writer is very difficult, because you're constantly applying for work and trying to prove you're not just writing."
Now, she can dedicate herself to writing full time, which is great news for the Irish literary world, as her latest collection 'Illuminate' received rave reviews and was chosen as an Irish Independent Book of the Year by author Sebastian Barry.
"Ireland is famous for its writers," said Ms O'Brien. "I'm greatly inspired by Heaney, Beckett and Joyce. But when we see how Joyce is celebrated the world over on Bloomsday, remember, he was starving for years.
"This new scheme takes an immense amount of pressure off writers and artists. As a nation, we put millions into restoring public buildings, while writers struggle to make a living, but what this says is that the Government is investing in our future and that gives recognition to the value of art and creativity.
"Great art comes from time. I worked full time for three years in the book industry, and there was no time left to write. The creative output just stops.
"Now I'm going to spend August in Paris learning French, I'll be reading in Slovenia in September, and involved in a homeless project in Glasgow later in the year.
"The scheme allows me time to do these things, and to get on with writing my first novel," she said.
Last year, she spent time producing a limited edition anthology called 'Looking at the Stars', a collection of works by contemporary Irish writers which raised over €21,000 for the Simon Community.
"That made a statement," she said. "It raised awareness around the homelessness crisis in Ireland, it raised money for the Rough Sleeper team of the Simon Community, and it said, 'Look what we can make happen'."