Fintan O'Toole to be keynote speaker for Kate O'Brien Weekend

FINTAN O'Toole, assistant editor and columnist with The Irish Times, will deliver the keynote speech at this year's Kate O'Brien Weekend, a literary festival devoted to the renowned Limerick author.

FINTAN O'Toole, assistant editor and columnist with The Irish Times, will deliver the keynote speech at this year's Kate O'Brien Weekend, a literary festival devoted to the renowned Limerick author.

This year will be the 27th staging of the popular weekend in honour of O'Brien, who was born in Limerick in 1897 and had a near 40- year career as a prolific writer.

The annual celebration of the famous Limerick author's life has seen some of the brightest literary and political luminaries come to the city over a 27-year period to give keynote speeches, hold seminars, launch books and hold court to appreciative crowds, and this year is set to be no different, with a packed three day programme.

The festival, which will include speakers such as Sir Christopher Frayling, Brian O'Rourke, Sile de Cleir, Sarah Bakewell, Niall MacMonagle and Iggy McGovern, will take place in the newly renovated Belltable Arts Centre from February 25-27.

Speaking at the launch of the event this week in O'Mahony's bookshop, writer Maeve O'Brien Kelly recalled how she was asked to take part in the first Kate O'Brien Weekend in 1984.

"It is vital for every nation to remember the artists who contribute to our well being," she said.

"We need to share ideas and to be in touch with writers and thinkers who stimulate us. A weekend like this is an ideal forum. For Limerick, it presents a true image of a city which has had a chequered history but has survived with its good humour and a certain elegant grace intact."

The annual literary weekend is funded by the Arts Council and Limerick City Council and is organised 'by readers for readers' to celebrate the memory of the author of The Ante Room and The Land of Spices.

A spokesperson for the organising committee explained that the "weekend is intimate in scale and convivial in nature where speakers and audiences get to talk freely about literary and other topics of interest to us all".

Previous speakers have included an impressive roster of speakers down the years including Mary Robinson, David Norris, Maeve Binchy, Robert Fisk, Bill Whelan and John Banville.

The theme for this year's Kate O'Brien Weekend is Brief Encounter. For more see www.kateobrienweekend.com.