Ovations as Edna O’Brien closes Limerick Literary Festival

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

Edna OBrien in conversation with Sean Rocks of RTE on the third day of the Limerick Literary Festival, which closed yesterday. Picture: Sean Curtin
AUTHOR Edna O’Brien has said she believes one of her most controversial works - based on the horrific murders in Clare in 1994 - may be judged less harshly in another 25 years.

AUTHOR Edna O’Brien has said she believes one of her most controversial works - based on the horrific murders in Clare in 1994 - may be judged less harshly in another 25 years.

The prolific, award-winning Clare born author, who now lives in the London, was one of the main speakers at the weekend at the annual Limerick Literary Festival, formerly the Kate O’Brien weekend, now in its 31st year. Speaking in the Lime Tree theatre in Mary Immaculate college, before an audience of some 300 people, the 84 year-old author, whose earlier work was banned in Ireland, said she is still “very glad” she wrote In the Forest in 2002.

In April 1994, artist Imelda Riney and her four year old son Liam were found murdered in Cregg Wood in east Clare, alongside Fr Joe Walsh. Their killer Brendan O’Donnell was found sane and convicted of the three murders and received multiple life sentences. Having served barely a year in the custody of the Central Mental Hospital, he was found dead after an overdose of prescribed anti-psychotic drugs. At the time she was accused of exploiting the grief of the families involved, but yesterday defended her work, saying the “four protagonists were all dead.”

“I’m very glad I wrote it; it’s not exploitative, but that was the view put around by one person, who wrote to every editor. I told a story that the whole world knew, and it was in every paper. The book was slated in every country. Let us see in 25 years what people will make of that book. It’s a very sad story, a very powerful story and a story I believed didn’t deserve to be forgotten, or to use that awful cliche, brushed under the carpet,” she said in conversation with RTE’s Sean Rocks. Speaking of her connection with Kate O’Brien - who inspired this literary festival - she said they once met in a bar in Dublin, but the senior writer, whose work was also banned in Ireland, uttered just one line of dialogue, she recalled. “‘Spanish cigarettes - best cigarettes in the world.’”

Years later, when Edna had made her mark on the literary world, Kate O’Brien was asked when passing through customs if she was any relation to the “notorious Edna O’Brien”. “No, but would like to be,” she replied. After an hour and 20 minute talk, she received a standing ovation, as the festival was brought to a close after three days.

Author Martine Madden, who hails from Limerick, received the festival’s new award for best novel, based on an online vote, for Anyush, a love story set against the backdrop of the Armenian Turkish conflict of 1915.