2020 – 2021 Prize

The 27th Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize, worth £7,500, has been won by Gail McConnell for her book of poetry, The Sun Is Open, published by Penned in the Margins. It was presented by Fergal Keane at a ceremony in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Iveagh House, Dublin.

The works considered cover a two-year period (2020 and 2021) and embody 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:

“This year’s short-list was a powerful one, representing fiction, memoir and historical research as well as poetry. But the judges were unanimous in selecting Gail McConnell’s astonishing and audacious book, which unpicks and unravels the narratives around the murder of the author’s father when she was three years old.

“Using a remarkable range of sources, this long poem investigates and interrogates memory, grief and violence in a new and arresting way and is an utterly original and compelling contribution to the literature of the Troubles.

“It could not be more immediately relevant to the origins and inspiration of the Ewart-Biggs Prize, founded to commemorate a life violently cut short, and recognising works which contribute to understanding between the peoples of Ireland north and south, and between Britain and Ireland.”

The other shortlisted entries for the Memorial Prize were:

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)

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