Ireland’s writers protest at disturbing decision by the Arts Council of Ireland to terminate funding to the Irish Writers’ Centre with immediate effectOne or two points to be raised: (a) Does Ireland really enjoy the ‘leading position in World (sic) literature’? (b) Will the next generation of Irish authors really be left in a vacuum and left to look elsewhere for guidance and development? (c) Is the Irish Writers’ Centre – or any group or organisation – really required for new and talented writers to access the skills, resources and talents to further their work? (d) Will up-and-coming writers do as writers have always done, which is simply to read better writers and try to write as well as they, or perhaps even better? (e) Exactly how was the Arts Council grant to the IWC distributed? (f) Was the Arts Council correct to believe that core staff costs at the IWC were unnecessarily high, given that – according to the IWC’s previous director, Peter Sirr, writing in yesterday’s Irish Times – €237,550 was spent on the salaries of four staff members?
Ireland’s literary fraternity has been stunned by the decision by the Arts Council of Ireland to terminate with immediate effect all funding to the Irish Writers’ Centre. Their statement, signed by a number of Ireland leading authors, including Maeve Binchy, Booker prize winners, Roddy Doyle, John Banville and Anne Enright, acclaimed International authors Richard Ford and Will Self, leading novelists, Joseph O’Connor, Dermot Bolger, John Boyne and Sebastian Barry, poets Paul Muldoon, Derek Mahon, Paul Durcan, Ciaran Carson and Ireland’s Professor of Poetry Michael Longley and literary figures such as literary agent Jonathan Williams are amongst the 55 signatories on the statement that has been circulated to all the National newspapers in Ireland and the United Kingdom expressing their dismay at this disturbing decision and calling for the urgent reinstatement of funding.
The Irish Writers’ Centre, which Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney has called “a part of the literary culture”, and best selling author John Boyne has described as “a part of the fabric of literature in Ireland”, is the national development agency for the development of writers and writing in Ireland where one if its primary functions is to foster and develop new writing talent so as to maintain Ireland’s leading position in World literature.
Literature is a major part of Ireland’s social and cultural history. The Irish Writers’ Centre was a space that writers could call their own. It is the only centre in Dublin devoted to literature that can provide an in-house space for readings, literary events, festivals, creative writing courses, developmental works and was the home to a number of writers groups and National organisations such as the Irish Writers’ Union and the Irish Translators and Interpreters Association. With the termination of funding access to these resources will be lost, leaving the next generation of Irish authors in a vacuum and having to look elsewhere for guidance and development.
If Ireland is to maintain its position as a major literary country it needs to develop new and talented writers who have access to the necessary skills, resources and outlets to further their work which, with the termination of funding to the Irish Writers’ Centre, they will find increasingly difficult.
As a struggling writer with two novels published, and who never received so much as a single syllable’s worth of help, direction or access from the IWC, and who would be in seventh heaven if I could earn almost €60,000 per annum from writing, I’ll gladly support the petition to have the Arts Council’s grant reinstated if and when the IWC (a) make available and transparent the way in which said grant is spent by the IWC, and (b) if I can be convinced that the IWC will in the future display the kind of pro-active attitude to supporting all kinds of writing and writers, such as that displayed by the Arts Council.