| 8.6°C Dublin

Playwright snubs silent tribute to slain officer

Well-known writer Margaretta D'Arcy refused to stand for a minute's silence in honour of murdered policeman Ronan Kerr at a meeting of the State-sponsored artists body Aosdana.

During the minute's silence, all 120 members present at the annual general meeting of the government-funded organisation, held this year in the College of Surgeons in Dublin, stood in a joint tribute to the PSNI man -- all except the Galway playwright, who is now in her 70s.

Ms D'Arcy has also been known as a political activist and has held strong republican views. She protested over the treatment of republican women prisoners in the North during the Troubles and was jailed twice in the North herself, during which time she joined the republican women's no-wash protest in Armagh.

The motion to have a minute's silence at the Aosdana meeting on Monday of last week was proposed by the academic WJ McCormack. As is usual with Aosdana meetings, the morning session of the meeting was private and the afternoon session was open to the public.

The minute's silence came near the end of the afternoon session. Her failure to stand was noted by several members present, including writer Ulick O'Connor and Mise Eire film director George Morrison.

Contacted in Galway and asked why she had not joined in the minute's silence for the PSNI officer, Ms D'Arcy confirmed that her refusal was a deliberate action on her part and was not accidental. She said she thought the decision to have the minute's silence was "opportunistic".

She said that she did not approve of Aosdana being used for political purposes and she had not had a chance to vote on the motion to have the minute's silence.

"I didn't know him. I didn't know anything about him," she said, referring to Ronan Kerr. "Of course it's sad that a young man got blown up, but politics is not part of Aosdana's work."

Aosdana was established by the Arts Council in 1981 under the Charlie Haughey-led government to honour artists whose work had made an outstanding contribution to the arts and to assist members in devoting their energies fully to their art. Membership of Aosdana, which is by peer nomination and election, is limited to 250 living artists. The current membership is 249. Last year it was 246 but three new members were added at last week's meeting.

Members of Aosdana are eligible to receive the Cnuas, an annual payment worth €17,180 in 2010. The Aosdana website shows that, like the majority of members, Ms D'Arcy is in receipt of the Cnuas.

Sunday Independent