Monster Book Lunch

I had a fantastic time as usual at The Monster Book Lunch in The Royal St George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire on Saturday. I got to talk to lots of great readers and hopefully a few new young writers about my books and ideas. Had a lovely table and we had great fun chatting over lunch as the girls came up with cover ideas and asked me lots of questions about my books. Lots of other lovely writers along too, including Sarah Webb, Cathy Cassidy, Oisin McGann and David Maybury. It was great to meet so many fans and get time with them.

Seamus Heaney

Saying goodbye to Seamus Heaney, Ireland’s best loved poet, has touched everyone in the country. All of us are aware of the passing of a very special, big hearted, generous, kind man who was a true wordsmith and had a rare ability to reach us with his poems. One of the world’s greatest writers, his poetry was firmly anchored in Irish soil but stretched out across the world to many.

I first met him when he visited my school when I was about twelve and we were surprised to find a lively young poet, talking to us about his first book of poems instead of a priest or nun, home from the missions. As he began to read I still remember being overwhelmed by his words and that sense that he was a living, breathing, real person and had the ability to transport me with his poems. Encouraged, I began to write.

Years later when my own books began to be published I was privileged to meet Seamus… he always made me laugh and put me at ease. He was that kind of man… A Nobel winning poet with an immense kindness and ability to inspire and encourage others.

At his funeral, his son Michael told us that a few minutes before he died Seamus had sent a text to his beloved wife Marie ‘Noli timere’ – don’t be afraid. His final words of farewell demonstrating the kind of man he truly was.

As chairperson of Irish PEN in 2005 I was very honoured to be involved in the presentation of Irish PEN’s Award for Literature to Seamus Heaney for his immense contribution to Irish literature.

“Between my finger and my thumb, the squat pen rests
I’ll dig with it”
Seamus Heaney 1939-2013

1913 Lockout Commemoration

I was very proud to be part of the great crowd that turned up to the commemoration of the 1913 Lockout in O’Connell Street on Saturday. Dublin’s Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn addressing the crowds reminded us that ‘knowledge of our history is intrinsic to citizenship’. Passages from James Plunkett’s pivotal book about the lockout ’Strumpet City’ were read by actors Bryan Murray and Angela Harding who starred in RTE’s TV series of the book. The wonderful voice of Ciara Sidine entertained the crowds as she sang about the Magdalen women.

A staged re-enactment of James Larkin’s speech to the crowd and his arrest and the baton charge on the large crowd by the Dublin Metropolitan Police was held in the centre of O’Connell Street near the Larkin statue with spectators joining in the ‘Down Murphy‘ and ‘Up Larkin’ chants.

The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, laid a wreath at the statue along with Labour and Union leaders as the hardship endured by workers and their families for many months as they fought for better working conditions during the Lockout was remembered.

1913 Lockout Commemoration