09 December 2008

A night of Human Writes

Tomorrow marks the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by member states of the UN in Paris, on 10th December 1948, and around the world events are taking place to commemorate this milestone in the evolution of human society. The Very Understanding Girlfriend and I went in to one such event last night in Trinity College, in which six Irish writers each read a new piece inspired by one of the 30 Articles of the Declaration. The night was part of a series of 32 pieces* by prominent Irish writers commissioned by Amnesty International Ireland and Irish Aid, and published today as a supplement in the Irish Times.

The authors were selected by Roddy Doyle, and he kicked of the series on Sunday along with Eugene McCabe, Lia Mills, Paul Howard, Kevin Barry, Colum McCann and Dermot Healy. Last night saw Colm Toibin, Ann Marie Hourihane, Eoin Colfer, Glenn Patterson, John Connolly and Anne Enright; tonight sees Joe O’Connor, John Boyne, Claire Kilroy, Carlo Gebler, Gerry Stembridge, Dermot Bolger and Mark O’Halloran and the series ends tomorrow with Frank McCourt, Eilis Ni Dhuibhne, Lara Marlowe, Gary Mitchell, Neil Jordan, Jennifer Johnston and Seamus Heaney.

Last night's pieces touched on exploitation and trafficking of workers, sweatshops, the rights of mothers, the injustices of corrupt unions (Ann Marie Hourihane raising quite a bit of controversy amongst the numerous Union officials in the audience) and a tale of an art-loving murderer narrating a fictitious live vivisection courtesy of John Connolly.

John is a good guy, for a few years I knew him pretty well as he covered the University beat for the Irish Times, always happy to sit down and spend the Grey Lady's money on a pint or two while rarely actually looking for some inside academic gossip in return. Though he always had a hefty level of sarcasm and a wicked sense of humour, there was little evidence then of what ever deep and unspeakable trauma he must have gone through to unlock the furtive recesses of his mind that produce his current writing. Watching the rest of the panel shift uneasily in their seats as his read his piece was an unexpected delight (Anne Enright was certainly not amused), and when asked why he wrote on the Article he did (Article 11, Innocent until proven guilty and the right to a fair trial), he said that it was the only one left as he was the last author to be asked***. Apparently horror/mystery writers don't rate that high on Roddy Doyle's scale****.

Tonight's readings are free and there are tickets available on the door, but tomorrow's with Seamus Heany are sold out. The supplement with all 32 pieces appears with today's Irish Times, so go out and pick up a copy or two, join Amnesty International, and try not to oppress anyone this week.

*including an introduction by Seamus Heaney, a unique piece inspired by each of the 30 articles, and one by Ross O'Carroll-Kelly for some reason

**and Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

***even Ross O'Carroll-Kelly was asked before him.

****At least he didn't ask Cecelia Ahern; I'm not sure if she could even spell 'Declaration', it unfortunately has too many syllables to appear in one of her books.


Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Amnesty Ireland


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