Sunday 21 January 2018

Artists expected to toe the official line

After John Michael McDonagh, artists will guard against moments of reckless honesty

Illustration: John Cogan.
Illustration: John Cogan.
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

It was recently announced that there will be an Irish Fiction Laureate, partly sponsored by the Arts Council, with a stipend of €50,000 a year for three years. The recipient would need to be an established author in Ireland and perhaps internationally, would have to be prepared to teach a few creative writing classes in UCD and in New York University, and to "participate in a number of major public events and promotions".

There seems to be a presumption here, that the Irish Fiction Laureate will not be doing a John Michael McDonagh on it, will not be the sort of person who feels free to disrespect the Irish novel in general, to speak darkly of the perceived inadequacies of rival Irish authors. The honour, after all, "will be used to promote Irish literature nationally and internationally". So it is indeed more than a presumption, it seems to be an explicit requirement, that the holder of the post will be "sound" on this particular national question.

If the Laureate is going to take 150 grand in total from the Arts Council, in conjunction with UCD and NYU, and the Irish Times, it is assumed that he or she will desist from slandering the works of others, or else be regarded as an ungrateful cur.

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