PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins will be the guest of honour at this year’s Eigse Michael Hartnett festival in Newcastle West, it has been confirmed.
He will officially launch the three-day arts festival with a talk at the Newcastle West library at 8pm on Thursday, April 26.
This year’s event, which celebrates the life and work of the famed West Limerick poet, will also feature a poetry reading by Belfast-born actor Stephen Rea in its schedule of drama, music, and literary events.
Joan MacKernan, Limerick county arts officer, said that having the President open Eigse this year will be an “honour”.
“Since the festival was established in 2000, we have welcomed many distinguished keynote speakers. But it is very special indeed to have the President both launch and speak at the opening ceremony.
“As a published poet in his own right, Michael D has visited Newcastle West and Eigse Michael Hartnett on several occasions, so it is a source of great delight and satisfaction to us to be welcoming him back in his new role of President of Ireland. We are absolutely delighted”.
President Higgins will also make a presentation to this year’s winner of the Michael Hartnett poetry award, a prize of €6,500 which has been awarded since the poet’s death in 1999 to, on alternate years, work in the Irish and English languages.
This year’s winner will be picked from five nominees: Stiofán Ó Cadhla, Andreas Vogel, Aifric Mac Aodha, Cliodna Cussen, and Philip Cummings by a judging panel of Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Paddy Bushe and Louis de Paor.
Ms MacKernan said that Mr Rea, famous for his appearances in The Crying Game, Michael Collins and Interview with the Vampire, will perform a live reading of his favourite poetry, including a selection of Michael Hartnett’s work.
Other highlights of this year’s festival will be appearances by Rita Connolly, Fleur Adcock and John F Deane.
“This year’s programme is very much a celebration of the creative breath,” Ms MacKernan said. “Eigse Michael Hartnett has a very special ambience of warmth and conviviality that lends itself to lively gatherings, easy conversation and spirited debate”.
For more information on the events taking place at this year’s Eigse Michael Hartnett festival, log on to www.eigsemichaelhartnett.ie.