The 2004 Hennessy New Irish Writer Award, in association with The Sunday Tribune and Four Seasons Hotel Dublin, was presented this evening to Newbridge teacher Terry Donnelly for his First Fiction short story 'Singing Dumb'.
Judges declared Terry 'a real talent' with a sharp eye for the revealing and often humourous detail that can bring a character alive. In 'Singing Dumb', Terry compellingly writes a about what happens when an amiable couple of debt collectors turn up at a suburban house to seize property.
Guest of Honour, His Excellency Msr Frederic Grasset, French Ambassador to Ireland, along with Maurice Hennessy of Hennessy Cognac, Gordon Colleary, Chairman of the Sunday Tribune, and John Brennan, General Manager of the Four Seasons Hotel, presented this year's Hennessy New Irish Writer Award to the Newbridge man in front of over 200 guests from the world of literature at Dublin's luxurious Four Seasons Hotel. The most influential award of their type, the Hennessy Literary Awards are presented to emerging Irish writers for outstanding poetry or fiction, which has been first-published in the New Irish Writing Page of The Sunday Tribune.
Donnelly, who works as a teacher at Newbridge's Patrician Secondary School, wins the Hennessy New Irish Writer Award on the occasion of his first-ever nomination in the Literary Awards. His outstanding short story, 'Singing Dumb', also saw Donnelly presented with this year's Hennessy Literary Award for Best First Fiction Writer. Terry Donnelly has an MA from Queen's University's creative writing programme and writes poetry, longer fiction and occasionally short stories. He has written one unpublished novel and is finishing another. He is with the Lisa Richards Literary Agency.
Also at the glittering black tie gala event, playwright and novelist Patrick McCabe became the third inductee into the prestigious Hennessy Literary Awards Hall of Fame, which honours those writers who have made a significant contribution to the encouragement of new Irish writing talent, as well as those whose careers were launched with previous Hennessy awards. McCabe joins other literary giants Dermot Bolger and Joseph O'Connor.
McCabe was presented with the award for his contribution to Irish writing and for his immense body of critically-acclaimed work since his short story 'The Call' was first published through Hennessy New Irish Writing of The Irish Press, winning him the Hennessy New Irish Writer Award for 1979. Since then, McCabe has gone on to write several plays as well as publish two Booker-nominated novels, 'The Butcher Boy' and 'Breakfast on Pluto', both of which have been adapted for the big screen by McCabe's friend and regular collaborator, filmmaker Neil Jordan. Breakfast on Pluto is scheduled to go on general release this autumn.
The judging panel for this year's awards included Editor of The Sunday Tribune's New Irish Writing, Ciaran Carty (Chairman); the leading Irish playwright of his generation, Frank McGuinness, and the novelist and screenwriter Ronan Bennett. Presenting the Hennessy New Irish Writer Award to Terry Donnelly, Ciaran Carty commented: "Terry Donnelly is a real talent. He has a sharp eye for the revealing and often humorous detail that can bring a character alive. Singing Dumb is a perfectly worked narrative about a seemingly banal situation that builds up a lively tension. It is a compelling read."
Other awards presented this evening included Best Emerging Fiction Writer to Philadelphia-based Dermot MacCormack for his short story 'Splendent sun and tawny moon' and Best Emerging Poetry to Laurence O'Dwyer for his two poems '34-36 Renaixenca, Barcelona' and 'Katja at the sewing machine'. A total of 18 writers were nominated for this year's awards. Each category winner receives a prize of ?1,500, while the overall winner receives an additional ?2,500 plus the trophy for Hennessy New Irish Writer 2004.
Now in their 34th year, the Hennessy Literary Awards is a unique award, providing the undiscovered writer and poet with an opportunity to break through the barriers to see their work published - and their talents appear in print. Previous winners include such leading Irish writers as Joseph O'Connor, Colum McCann, Marina Carr, Mary O'Donnell, and Vona Grorke.
Commenting on this year's awards, Maurice Hennessy, Director of Jas. Hennessy & Co., said: "At Hennessy, we are very proud of the important role these Awards play in promoting New Irish Writing, and more importantly, new writing talent. Since 1970, these awards have inspired writers and readers alike, and for us in Hennessy, along with our associate sponsors, The Sunday Tribune and Four Seasons Hotel, we observe with pride the success of many past winners who have gone on to become today's great names in Irish and international literature".
Gordon Colleary, Chariman of the Sunday Tribune, said: "The Hennessy Literary awards have gone from strength to strength and are continuing to grow in prestige. Today, Irish writers of both serious and popular fiction are major players on the world stage, but getting your work published has always been difficult and we believe that the Sunday Tribune New Irish Writing Page gives a unique opportunity for new Irish writing to be seen and appreciated. Through the Hennessy Literary Awards ceremony we have now found a more prestigious and glamorous way to promote the best in new Irish writing and bring it to a wider audience."