Dalkey Literary Awards - 20th June 2020
Dalkey Literary Awards - 20th June 2020

Video: President Michael D Higgins Opens Dalkey Book Festival 2016 with Inspiring Speech

We had the privilege of President Michael D Higgins officially opening the 2016 Dalkey Book Festival this evening.

“Today, I have no doubt that new generations of emerging Irish writers continue to be inspired by Dalkey and its surrounds, following in the footsteps of those who have gone before as they chart our changing landscape and depict new patterns of Irishness, finding their own pathways and leaving their indelible mark on Irish literary tradition.”

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To hear the full speech, have a listen here:

Speech by President Michael D. Higgins

Dalkey Book Festival

Dalkey, Co. Dublin

Thursday, 16th June, 2016

Is mór an pléisiúir a bheith anseo anocht don 7ú Féile Leabhar Dheilginse. Cé nach bhfuil an Féile ar an bhfód ach achar gearr, tá áit lárnach aici i saol liteartha na hÉireann agus tá sí tar éis liosta mórthaibhseach buaiteoirí Dhuais Nobel na Litríochta, Dhuais Booker agus scríbhneoirí eile mór le rá a óstáil.

[It is a great pleasure to be here this evening for the seventh annual Dalkey Book Festival.   This event now holds an important place on Ireland’s literary calendar and has already played host to an impressive roll call of Nobel laureates, Booker prize winners and other writers of international repute.]

This year is no exception and I am delighted that so many distinguished writers, from home and abroad, have generously agreed to take part in this year’s festival, sharing their thoughts and experiences, reading from their works and providing insights through the many discussions and conversations that will be held here over the coming days.

The Dalkey Festival was founded in order to:

“celebrate and foster the wealth of literary talent in and around the town,”

and there can be no doubting Dalkey’s rich heritage as a home and an inspiration for world renowned Irish writers.

Indeed, it is appropriate that we are gathered here on the day that we, as a nation celebrate Bloomsday, marking James Joyce’s world renowned Ulysses which immortalised both the nearby Martello Tower and Clifton School, on Clifton Avenue where Joyce taught.  Leopold Bloom’s legendary walk through Dublin on 16th June 1912 became, in a literary sense, a walk into the unknown; a brave departure from the form of the novel as it prevailed in his time, a groundbreaking piece of work and part of a Modernism that would introduce a new style of narration to the novel and change it forever.

Through the supporting role it played in Leopold, Stephen and Molly’s 16th of June odyssey, Dalkey and its surrounds are embedded deeply into the story of Irish, and indeed, world literature.

Of course, Dalkey’s literary heritage does not rely on any single pillar.  It has sprung from roots that preceded Ulysses and has flourished significantly across the decades since the publication of James Joyce’s epic work.

It was of Torca Road that George Bernard Shaw spoke when he wrote:

“I lived on a hilltop with the most beautiful view in the world – I had only to open my eyes to see such pictures as no painter could make for me.”

Dalkey was, of course, the setting for Flann O’Brien’s final novel, The Dalkey Archive, while John Millington Synge on his walks from neighbouring Dun Laoghaire, or Kingstown as it was then known, was a well know figure ‘striding along the Dalkey Road swinging his  stick’.

More recently, the work of Hugh Leonard was visibly shaped and influenced by his Dalkey boyhood, and the well loved name Maeve Binchy  is almost synonymous with this special place.

Today, I have no doubt that new generations of emerging Irish writers continue to be inspired by Dalkey and its surrounds, following in the footsteps of those who have gone before as they chart our changing landscape and depict new patterns of Irishness, finding their own pathways and leaving their indelible mark on Irish literary tradition.

Many aspiring writers have also, I am sure, been greatly encouraged by attending this annual coming together of many of Ireland’s most productive and respected literary talents and creative minds, and receiving the opportunity to listen to the words of writers from all over the world as they explore and share their art and talent.

I am pleased to learn that a key focus of this year’s festival will be the important themes of  ‘exile, migration and dislocation’. This is, of course, a critical moment for Ireland and for Europe as we struggle to shape a coherent, coordinated and humane response to unprecedented levels of displacement and forced migration in our world. 

I am delighted, therefore, that several distinguished writers such as Elif Shafak, Janine di Giovanni, Shazia Mirza and Yanis Varoufakis have travelled here to engage in discussion around the questions of belonging, nationhood and migration, and the contradictions of our contemporary existence.

It is so often through great literature and great writing, in its many forms, that we are enabled to understand the great humanity of the migrant that is involved in the experience of transience, a concept missed by nearly all the social science writing on migration and migrants.   To truly comprehend, the great exile of the heart and spirit that is so central to the experience of displacement and dislocation, we have to turn to fiction and biography.

They are themes that have already inspired much great Irish fiction, drama and poetry. The poignancy, but also the release, of the spiritual displacement, severance of familial memory, yearning for a home place that no longer exists, or for a home coming that will remain a fantasy, is imbued into the work of so many of our great writers including Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel and John McGahern and many others.

Thar chaitheamh na bliana tábhachtach seo, tá muid, mar náisiún, tar éis go leór machnaimh a dhéanamh ar na heispéiris éagsúla agus na guthanna aonair a chuimsíonn Éirí Amach na Cásca; tráth cinniúnach bunaithe an Stát seo. Tá áthas orm a fheiceáil go mbeidh an t-ábhar seo ina chuid d’Fhéile Leabhar Dheilginse 2016.

[In this important year of commemoration we have, as a nation, been engaged in much exploration of the different but interconnecting experiences and individual voices that comprise the experience of the Easter Rising; the founding moment on which our State was built. It is a topic which I am pleased to see will form a part of the 2016 Dalkey Book Festival.]

Your programme is indeed a most impressive one which bears out Salman Rushdie’s view that the Dalkey Book Festival is “the best little festival in the world”.  I have no doubt that the coming days will see much stimulating discussion, reading and performance in shops, schools, gardens, cafes, pubs and other public spaces in and around Dalkey Village; reminding us that culture and creativity must always be viewed as a component of citizenship and that the arts are an important vehicle for citizen participation.

Most importantly, this is a great celebration of the written word, and of the books which transport us to new places, times and experiences, introducing us to new people, and enriching our lives through the creativity and hard work of their authors.

So, in conclusion, may I congratulate then and thank all those involved in the organisation of this important event, in particular David McWilliams and Sian Smyth the founders of the Dalkey Book Festival, but also the entire team who work so hard to ensure it continues to grow from strength to strength. I also thank all those who partake in this event as guests or as enthusiastic audiences without whom the Festival would not happen.  May I also mention how delighted I am that our new Cathaoirleach Councillor Cormac Devlin has joined us this evening. I wish him well in his new appointment.

Tá súil agam go mbeidh deireadh seachtaine taitneamhach agaibh, lán de dhíospóireacht, léitheoireacht agus taibhithe

[I wish you a most enjoyable weekend of fruitful discussion and enjoyable reading and performance.]

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.

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