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Saturday 17 February 2018

President pays respects to old pal Keane at launch of Writers' Week

Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins held a private meeting with the family of the late playwright John B Keane in his hometown last night -- on the 10th anniversary of the famous playwright's death.

The President was in Listowel, Co Kerry, where he officially launched the 41st Writers' Week, Ireland's longest-running literary festival.

Although it's been 10 years since the author of 'Sive' and 'The Field' passed away, for his family and particularly his widow Mary, the anniversary is always a difficult day.

Mrs Keane said she still felt her husband's presence and he also had a strong belief in the afterlife.

Fittingly, the town's best-known son passed away on the eve of Listowel Writers' Week, a week that, according to Mrs Keane, the well-known author enjoyed enormously.

She said Mr Higgins had been a frequent visitor to the town and had often called in to say hello.

"A book of his poetry was launched here so he knows Listowel and he knows us well. He's a lovely President," Mrs Keane told the Irish Independent.

Her late husband might have been at the centre of the festival but his pub, John B's is still very much to the fore.

"I like that he's still part of it," Mrs Keane added.

"People look in the door and say hello and that's lovely. It's great to have the door open for them so they can look at the memorabilia as well.

"John was very happy that Writers' Week kept going."

Mr Higgins also presented the Kerry Group Irish Novel Award to Christine Dwyer Hickey for her novel 'The Cold Eye of Heaven', a tale of an ordinary Dubliner facing his mortality.

No stranger to Writers' Week, she previously won the short-story competition on two occasions.

She was among five shortlisted authors for the award, including Kevin Barry, Carlo Gebler, Anne Enright and Belinda McKeon.

The inaugural John B Keane Lifetime Achievement Award in association with Mercier Press was presented by Mr Higgins to fellow poet Anthony Cronin. The festival continues until Sunday.

Irish Independent

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