Writers in all genres have produced work that has gained attention and recognition at home and internationally. Irish publishing continues to produce poetry, non-fiction, fiction for children and adults of the highest quality.
This year O’Brien Press celebrated 40 years of publishing. “Down the years, the company has broken new ground for the domestic trade in the fields of culture, conservation and environment, true crime and, most strikingly, children’s literature,” Mick Heaney commented in a recent profile of Michael O’Brien.
How disappointing then to learn that the Arts Council has chosen to reward this 40 years of achievement by handing the company an 84% reduction in its grant – from €63,000 in 2014 to €10,000 in 2015.
It achieved this drastic cut by moving the publisher from regular funding to a scheme designed to support the costs of individual titles by publishers not in receipt of any other funding.
Of the 14 titles submitted by O’Brien Press, two were funded. The clear signal from the Arts Council is that Ireland’s leading publisher of children’s books and one of Ireland’s leading publishers of adult books is undeserving of serious support.
Perhaps it feels Irish writers are best served by UK or US publishers and that publishing, unlike music, dance, theatre or film, is a relatively low priority.
We would argue that, on the contrary,Ireland needs a strong publishing industry, exactly as it needs other forms of creative endeavour, unless we are to return to the bad old days of cultural cringe when all validation had to be external and we didn’t trust or support our own creativity.
We therefore urge the Arts Council to reconsider its almost total cut in O’Brien Press funding and to restore it immediately to regular funding at a level at least equal to its 2014 grant.