Speech by Minister Madigan at launch of third XBorders Programme

Check Against Delivery

Tá an-áthas orm bheith anseo um thráthnóna, i bhfoirgneamh iontach Seoirseach seo, áit oiriúnach do scríbhneoirí ag gach céim dá gairme.

This launch of the third XBorders Programme is an exciting development focusing on the theme of Transition.  This project is progressive in its ambitions and in its all-island initiative, connecting emerging writers on both sides of the border.

It is so heartening to see the supportive nature of XBorders among writers who share information online, support each other’s literary successes and are active in a range of programmes. In these uncertain times, any cross-border co-operation is indeed welcome.

Taking part in the programme speaks volumes about the quality of the participants writing. It gives them the confidence to advance a fledgling literary career. To quote Sylvia Plath;

“Everything in life is writable about, if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Sometimes writing and literature can be overlooked in the national psyche in favour of, for example, famous sporting deeds. Ireland’s strong international reputation for literature is enhanced by contemporary writers who enjoy critical acclaim, win prestigious literary awards and attract significant readerships around the world.

Let’s not forget, we can boast no fewer than four living Booker prize winners since the inception of the awards in 1969, Roddy Doyle, John Banville, Anne Enright and most recently, Anna Burns. Let’s not forget Nobel prizes for Yeats, Shaw, Beckett and Heaney. It is intrinsic to the very fabric of this country.

But we must not, however rest on our laurels. The future of our continued success on the world stage rests with the support that we, as a nation, give to our current writers to enable them to produce their best work.

I am delighted that my Department, through its funding of the Arts Council continues to play a role here. In 2018, the Arts Council awarded the Irish Writers Centre €100,000 to deliver its wide-ranging and ambitious programme, focused on the needs of writers at various stages of their careers. Through its unwavering commitment, the Arts Council’s support both for the individual writer, and for the Irish Writers Centre, ensures that artists can continue to produce excellent work which is enjoyed and valued around the world.

Through your day to day work and engagement with thousands of writers, you here in The Irish Writers Centre provide supports and create  communities for the vital exchange of ideas.  This often ignites the spark to get solid ideas onto the written page. I have read through the IWC programme and I’m hugely impressed at the range and quality of supports on offer to writers across the island.  You are the conduit, which allows us to manifest ourselves as creative beings and Ireland as a creative nation.

Even with all of the many educational supports and programmes on offer, I am delighted to see that the “grassroots” are not neglected with regular contact through community residencies, facilitation, curation and mentoring.  This dialogue between the Centre in the development of literary supports, and with professional writers in its delivery, creates a healthy partnership and a fertile environment for new work to flourish.

Literature is an integral part of people’s lives in Ireland: books, stories, language and reading are essential to our culture and society and even our identity in the world. While digital technology will continue to change the way we engage with literature, the writer and reader will remain at the heart of this art form. Oscar Wilde once said;

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”

Le críochnú, ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an IWC ar a fhís agus guím gach rath oraibh sna blainta atá romhainn.

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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