Cast of characters named for the ‘biggest celebration of Irish writing’

The shortlists for “the biggest celebration of Irish writing” was announced yesterday.

  Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and Darina Allen enjoying the announcement of the shortlists for the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards. Picture: Patrick Bolger

The Bord Gáis Irish Books Awards are now in their eighth year, and the shortlists, compiled by a panel of industry experts, cover a spectrum from literature and crime to sport, cookery, children’s literature, and memoir. There’s a new category this year, for short stories.

The list includes names such as Roddy Doyle, Eamon Dunphy, Frank McGuinness, Jennifer Saunders, and Colum McCann.

Last year’s overall winner, Donal Ryan, who went on to a Man Booker prize long-listing for his debut, The Spinning Heart, has been nominated again, this time in the Eason novel of the year award, for The Thing About December.

“Getting the newcomer award last year was the best feeling I’ve had in my life,” he said at the announcement in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. “It was amazing. Better than the Man Booker long-listing. It was just so emotional.”

Sinead Moriarty has been nominated for a sixth time. “I’m always the bridesmaid,” she joked. “But it’s wonderful to be nominated, and so gratifying. As a writer you spend so much of time alone, sitting there riddled with self-doubt.”

Claudia Carroll, in the same category, the popular fiction book of the year, is delighted to be in such exalted company. “I presented the award last year, and Maeve Binchy won. Maeve had been so good to me.”

The debut shortlist is one of the strongest. It includes former Sunday Tribune journalist Paul Lynch, with Red Sky in the Morning, and ex-actress Michèle Forbes, for Ghost Moth; Niamh Boyce for The Herbalist; Colin Barrett for his debut short story collection, Young Skins, RTÉ’s Rachel English with Going Back, and Ciaran Collin’s The Gamal.

Collins had already won the Rooney Prize. A teacher, he’s overwhelmed with the reception his book has received. “It’s wonderful just to be here. I’m a teacher, and it’s back to school as usual on Monday.”

Cork is well represented. Both Darina and Rachel Allen are listed for the Avonmore cookbook of the year. “And Catherine Fulvio was a past student of our cookery school,” Darina quipped.

Perhaps the last word should go to Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, nominated for the sports book of the year.

“It’s humbling to be here today,” he said. “When you set your store, the last thing on your mind that it will be considered sports book of the year. Even being here, It’s great.”

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