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The gala event saw Irish novelist Edna O’Brien been awarded a £40,000 lifetime achievement prize regarded as a precursor to the Nobel, for having “moved mountains both politically and lyrically through her writing” in a career spanning almost 60 years. Awarded every two years to a living writer for their entire body of work, the prize was founded by the late cultural philanthropist David Cohen in 1993, in the hopes of starting an equivalent of the Nobel prize for UK and Irish authors. Many recipients, including VS Naipaul, Doris Lessing and Harold Pinter, went on to become Nobel laureates.
Winners of the David Cohen prize are also tasked with bestowing the £10,000 Clarissa Luard award on an emerging writer. O’Brien selected Clodagh Beresford Dunne, an Irish poet from Dungarvan, County Waterford, who has yet to publish a collection. O’Brien said she became aware of Beresford Dunne’s poetry after seeing her read at a literary festival in Ireland. “I had many claims on who I would wish this prize to go to, including in Nigeria, so it was hard for me. But I decided to give it to a fellow Irish girl – well, she’s a girl and I am a woman – because I know how much she loves poetry and with four children and a husband, she wants more than anything to have a book of poetry published,” she said.
The Arts Office has been a long time supporter of Clodagh’s work and she has received the Waterford ArtLinks bursary to support her writing on a number of occasions. We wish her all the best for her future writing.