Gail McConnell shortlisted for the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize

Blog / Tom Chivers

The winner of the twenty-seventh Christopher Ewart-Biggs Literary Prize, worth £7,500, will be announced in early May 2022 in Dublin. The Prize was instituted in memory of the British Ambassador to Ireland who was murdered by the IRA in 1976. The work eligible covers a two-year period (2020 and 2021) and has produced a wide […]

The winner of the twenty-seventh Christopher Ewart-Biggs Literary Prize, worth £7,500, will be announced in early May 2022 in Dublin. The Prize was instituted in memory of the British Ambassador to Ireland who was murdered by the IRA in 1976. The work eligible covers a two-year period (2020 and 2021) and has produced a wide and stimulating variety of entries. In arriving at a final short-list the judges stressed that they had chosen works that embodied the objectives of the Prize, which are to promote and encourage peace and reconciliation in Ireland, a greater understanding between the peoples of Britain and Ireland, or closer co-operation between the partners of the European Community. These are the ideals which inspired Christopher Ewart-Biggs and to which his widow Jane subsequently dedicated herself.

Speaking for the Judges, Professor Roy Foster said: ‘At this time, the importance of coming to terms with a violent past, and exploring routes to mutual understanding through negotiation and compromise, is more urgently needed than ever. The short-list for the 2022 Prize reflects this. It includes a tough and salty novel charting everyday life and survival in a society traumatized by violent death and disappearance; a fascinating memoir by an unsung hero of the negotiations which led to the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, a vital landmark in the peace process; a powerful and formally audacious book of poetry exploring the psychological fall-out after a paramilitary murder; and an in-depth analysis of the channels of communication set up between the British government and the republican movement. All these books are written with sharp insight and considerable literary distinction, and shine new light into dark corners of the Northern Irish experience .

The four shortlisted entries for the Memorial Prize are:

Michelle Gallen, Big Girl, Small Town (John Murray)

David Goodall, edited by Frank Sheridan, The Making of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985: a memoir (National University of Ireland)

Gail McConnell, The Sun is Open (Penned in the Margins)

Niall Ó Dochartaigh, Deniable Contact: Back-Channel Negotiation in Northern Ireland (Oxford University Press)

The Sun is Open was published in September 2021. It was Poetry Book of the Month in The Observer and a TLS Book of the Year.

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