Remembering Eugene O’Neill
and Celebrating Irish American
Writers and Artists

Mary Pat Kelly, Vice President of IAW&A.

By Mary Pat Kelly, Contributor
October / November 2015

Founded in 2008, and operated as a non-profit organization, Irish American Writers & Artists, Inc. (IAW&A) welcomes Irish-American writers, actors, filmmakers, musicians and artists of every (and no) religion. As well as celebrating the achievements of Irish-American writers and artists, past and present, IAW&A’s purpose is to highlight, energize and encourage Irish Americans working in the arts. IAW&A is committed both to bringing together the Irish American creative community in new self-awareness and to being a force for inter-ethnic and interracial solidarity, understanding and active cooperation.

As the members and supporters IAW&A gather on October 19 for the 7th annual presentation of the organization’s Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award, the words of this year’s honoree, Patricia Harty, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Irish America magazine provide a touchstone for the event and the group’s mission.

“I have been inspired in my work by something O’Neill said. He pointed out that the critics had missed the most important thing about him and his work – the fact that he was Irish. His Irish roots contributed to O’Neill’s genius, and in Irish America magazine we celebrate that heritage.”

Pete Hamill, last year’s O’Neill Award recipient, pictured with writer Maria Deasy.

Pete Hamill, last year’s O’Neill Award recipient, pictured with writer Maria Deasy.

A look at past winners underlines how various are the ways that this heritage informs artistic expression. The inaugural awardee William Kennedy’s portrayal of the Phelans of Albany earned him the Pulitzer Prize. Brian Dennehy brings the characters of O’Neill to unforgettable life. In creating the Irish Repertory Theatre, Charlotte Moore and Ciaran O’Reilly insure that the dramatic voice of Ireland and Irish America is heard. John Patrick Shanley gives that dramatic voice contemporary expression. Judy Collins says that she sings from an Irish-American soul. Pete Hamill chronicles the Irish-American experience in a way that combines realism and lyricism. And for thirty years, this year’s winner, Patricia Harty has provided a unique forum to present Irish and Irish-American history, to celebrate our achievements, and to connect with each other through a shared “Pride in our Heritage – Mortas Cine,” the magazine’s motto.

Brian Dennehy, who received the O’Neill Award in 2011.

Brian Dennehy, who received the O’Neill Award in 2011.

The spirit of the honorees infuses the event – warm, intimate, fun. The welcome extended by Mike Carty, father and son, at their legendary Rosie O’Grady’s, includes great food, a generous bar, and a space conducive to good conversation and spontaneous encounters. Last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo stopped by. Gabriel Byrne is a frequent and approachable guest. Malachy McCourt can be counted on to lead us in song. The website, www.iamwa.com, will fill you in on the organization and allow you to buy a ticket, which includes membership in Irish American Writers and Artists. But, to borrow a phrase the Irish Tourist Board used to describe the North of Ireland, “You’ll never know unless you go.” There’s still time to come along this year or mark your calendar for next.

When the Swedish Academy awarded Eugene O’Neill the 1936 Nobel Prize for Literature, they cited his dramatic works for their “vital energy, sincerity, and intensity of feeling, stamped with an original conception of tragedy.” Irish no question. ♦


For tickets for the Eugene O’Neill Award and information on the IAW&A go to www.iamwa.com.

One Response to “Remembering Eugene O’Neill
and Celebrating Irish American
Writers and Artists”

  1. Ann Dunne says:


    Could you send me your address I am travelling to the States and I would love to visit.


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