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PEN Writers in Prisons Committee Unanimously Supports Irish PEN's Call for a Blasphemy Referendum in 2011.


PEN International Writers in Prisons Conference 24-26 March 2011.

On Saturday 26/03/2011 Emer Liston , Irish PEN delegate to the WiPC conference in

Brussels, addressed the issue of Irish Pens Campaign to abolish Irelands Blasphemy

Law. The delegation unanimously voted to support Irish PEN’s campaign , and PEN

International pledged to write a letter to that effect. Norwegian PEN and Larry Siems,

from American PEN , also spoke on the need to stop any move to protect against

religious defamation at UN level , thus was identified the direct correlation between

Irish PEN’s campaign and International and Norwegian PEN’s campaigns.


On Sunday March 27 2011, Larry Siems received a notification that the UN would

not support any protection for religious defamation, Irish PEN awaits further

correspondence from PEN International, specifically from Frank Geary, an Irish

national and PEN International official based in London and who has a specific wish

to help with this campaign.


Writers Hail UN Accord Ending Push to Ban Blasphemy.


New York City, March 30, 2011—PEN American Center today praised the U.N. Human Rights Council for ending efforts to restrict speech considered offensive to religions, calling the Council’s recent unanimous vote on a religious tolerance resolution “a vital affirmation of the inextricably-linked rights of freedom of expression and religion.

“We are delighted that the OIC has come to share our view that in the necessary work of building mutual respect between the world’s religious traditions, the criminalization of speech about a religion—however offensive to its adherents—would have been an unhelpful step,” PEN President Kwame Anthony Appiah said today in New York. “This is especially so because incitement to violence on any basis, including religion, is already exempt from the wide protections for freedom of expression in international law.”


Writers Hail U.N Accord Ending Push to Ban Blasphemy

Urgent Need for Constitutional Referendum on Blasphemy

Forgottenness … a novel by Tanja Maljartschuk

To mark the 2nd anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, we are posting a link to a review of Tanja’s novel in English on Chytomo

Forgottenness will be launched in Ireland on 7th March at 6:30 p.m. in The Gutter Bookshop. Cow’s Lane, Temple Bar.

“Culture in a Time of War” event at the RIA

Dublin Book Festival

Report by Natalya Kornienko for Chytomo.

This event was sponsored by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature in association with Dublin City Council. It was dedicated to the memory of Victoria Amelina, who was scheduled to appear on the panel before she was killed, along with 12 other people, by a Russian Missile strike on a pizza restaurant in Kramatorsk, Ukraine (27th June, 2023)

Victoria Amelina wins Chytomo Special Jury prize (posthumously)

Ukrainian writer Victoria Amelina, who was well known to the PEN International community, a member of PEN Ukraine and a friend of Irish PEN, received a Special Jury Award (posthumously) from Chytomo. The Award ceremony, recognising outstanding achievements in publishing, was held on 2nd November 2023.

Victoria Amelina (1986-2023)

Victoria won her award “For continuing to connect people and communities through many unseen bridges, and for creating opportunities and pathways that continue to guide the Ukrainian cultural community forward.” https://chytomo.com/en/chytomo-award-announced-winners/

The Light of Home: Ukraine and Ireland. A Celebration of Ukrainian and Irish Culture – Dublin Book Festival

Saturday, 11th November 2023, 8 p.m.

Venue: Townhall, 1WML, Windmill Quarter

Join us for a special evening of music and readings featuring Irish and Ukrainian writers Iryna Starovoyt, Olha Mukha, Tetyana Teren, Thérèse Kieran, Celia de Fréine and John O’Donnell with musicians Olesya Zdorovetska, Nick Roth, Colm Mac Con Iomaire and Catherine Fitzgerald. (Check the Dublin Book Festival website, link below, for updates on speakers).

This event will be dedicated to the memory of Victoria Amelina, Ukrainian writer, human rights activist and much-loved colleague, who would have been here with us for these event if she had not been killed, along with 12 other people, by a Russian missile strike in Kramatorsk, Ukraine.

This event is supported by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, in association with Dublin City Council

For more information and to book please visit here.

Tickets: €10.00 (€3.00 Concession/unwaged)

Culture in a Time of War – Dublin Book Festival

Thursday 9th November, 6:30 p.m.

Venue: The Royal Irish Academy, Dawson Street, Dubin 2

Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann in partnership with Dublin Book Festival and the Ukrainian-Irish Cultural Platform host a discussion centred on the importance of preserving cultural memory in times of war. With journalist, cultural manager, Executive Director of PEN Ukraine, and curator Tetyana Teren; poet, essayist, and Professor of Cultural Studies Iryna Starovoyt; and curator of the WOUNDED CULTURE project, cultural analyst and manager at PEN International Olha Mukha

This event will be dedicated to the memory of Victoria Amelina, Ukrainian writer, human rights activist and much-loved colleague, who would have been here with us for these event if she had not been killed, along with 12 other people, by a Russian missile strike in Kramatorsk, Ukraine.

This event is supported by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, in association with Dublin City Council.

Admission is free but booking is essential, please click here.

Human Rights Under Threat: The Arts Respond

October 14, 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm IST

Venue: Pearse Street Library Conference Centre

Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann is delighted to host this event in partnership with Smashing Times, International Centre for the Arts and Equality for the annual Dublin International Arts and Human Rights festival. The event is supported by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, in association with Dublin City Council.

George Szirtes, award-winning Hungarian writer primarily in the field of poetry, translation and memoir, will be interviewed by Mary Moynihan, writer, director, theatre and filmmaker and Artistic Director of Smashing Times International Centre for the Arts and Equality. He will discuss migration, human rights and freedom of expression, and the role of poetry in these challenging times. He will also give a short reading from his work. Csilla Toldy, also Hungarian and also an award winning poet, novelist, translator and film-maker will join the discussion and read from her work.

Tickets are for free but booking is essential here.

Speaker Biographies:

George Szirtes was born in Hungary and emigrated to England with his parents — her mother a survivor of concentration and labor camps—after the 1956 Budapest uprising.

Szirtes studied painting at Harrow School of Art and Leeds College of Art and Design. At Leeds he studied with Martin Bell, who encouraged Szirtes as he began to develop his poetic themes: an engaging mix of British individualism and European fluency in myth, fairy tale, and legend. Szirtes’s attention to shape and sound, cultivated through his background in visual art and his bilingual upbringing, quickly led to his successful embrace of formal verse. In an essay in Poetry magazine defending form, Szirtes argues that “rhyme can be unexpected salvation, the paper nurse that somehow, against all the odds, helps us stick the world together while all the time drawing attention to its own fabricated nature.”

His first book, The Slant Door (1979), won the Faber Memorial Prize. Bridge Passages (1991) was shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Prize. Reel (2004) won the T.S. Eliot Prize, and his New and Collected Poems was published by Bloodaxe in 2008.

Szirtes did not return to Hungary until 1984, when he visited on the first of several Arts Council travelling scholarships. He has since translated, edited, and anthologized numerous collections of Hungarian poetry. For his translation work Szirtes has won several awards, including the Déry Prize for Imre Madach’s The Tragedy of Man (1989) and the European Poetry Translation Prize for Zsuzsa Rakovsky’s New Life (1994). His own work has been translated into numerous languages and widely anthologised, including in Penguin’s British Poetry Since 1945.

He is the author of Exercise of Power (2001), a critical study of the artist Ana Maria Pacheco. He co-edited, with Penelope Lively, New Writing 10 (2001). Szirtes has written extensively for radio and is the author of more than a dozen plays, musicals, opera libretti, and oratorios.

Szirtes lives in England with his wife, the painter Clarissa Upchurch, with whom he ran the Starwheel Press. They collaborated on Budapest: Image, Poem, Film (2006). He is a member of the Advisory Panel of the British Center for Literary Translation, and is on the Advisory Board of the Poetry Book Society. He has been a member of the Royal Society of Literature since 1982.  www.georgeszirtes.blogspot.com

Csilla Toldy is a writer and translator from Hungary, living in Rostrevor, Co Down. Her publications include various literary magazines in the UK and Ireland, as well as three poetry pamphlets: Red Roots – Orange Sky (2013), The Emigrant Womans Tale (2015) and Vertical Montage (2018, Lapwing), and the short story collection, Angel Fur and other stories (Stupor Mundi, 2019). Her novel Bed Table Door, long listed for the Bath Novel award, and winner of the Desmond Elliot Residency explores the idea of political and personal freedom against the backdrop of the Cold War and Thatcher’s England. (Wrecking Ball Press, 2023). Csilla creates film poems as a visual artist. Her award-winning work has been screened at international festivals. In 2020 she was commissioned by the Executive Office of Northern Ireland to create a public artwork, a film poem for Holocaust Memorial Day. Csilla is a Creative Writing tutor with the Open University and a mentor with the Irish Writer’s Centre.

Her film scripts won the Katapult Prize and the Special Prize of the Motion Pictures Association of America as the Hungarian entry to the Hartley-Merrill Prize and they were placed as Drama (Foreign Film) Genre Finalist in the APMFF Screenplay Competition 2015 in New Jersey. The Bloom Mystery her documentary based on Joyce’s Ulysses was screened internationally. Her narrative non-fiction was short listed for the Kingston University Biography Prize and the Fish Memoir Prize. Csilla’s first novel, Bed Table Door  was long listed for the Bath Novel Award and is recently with The Wrecking Ball Press.

In 2023 she was the recipient of the Desmond Elliot Residency awarded by the National Centre for Writing.


Mary Moynihan, Writer, Director, Theatre and Film-Maker and Artistic Director, Smashing Times International Centre for the Arts and Equality

Mary Moynihan, (she/her), MA, is an award-winning writer, director, theatre and film-maker, an interdisciplinary artist and one of Ireland’s most innovative arts and human rights artists creating work to promote the arts, human rights, climate justice, gender equality, diversity and peace. 


On 7th and from 29th to 30th September 2023 at Istituto Italiano Di Cultura – Dublino

The first edition of ”Dublin Festival of Italian and Irish Literature in Ireland” was launched on the 7th September with a special event and it will then officially take place from 29th September to 30th September 2023.

Six Italian authors and six Irish authors will meet in Dublin for a literature festival dedicated to the points of contact between the two cultures.

The Festival was launched on 7th September at the Istituto Italiano Di Cultura – Dublino on the occasion of the exhibition ”Irish in Italy” about the publication of Irish literature in Italy in the first half of the 20th century. It will then continue on 29th and 30th September with a packed and interesting programme of literature encounters. Please see the programme by clicking here.

The Festival is an initiative of the Italian Institute of Culture in partnership with Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann, Literature Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, Society for Italian Studies and Irish in Italy.

Mahvash Sabet/English PEN

We have received this information from our colleagues in English PEN as part of their PENWrites campaign. Please follow the links to learn more about Mahvash Sabet, to read some of her memoir, and to write her a message of solidarity.

If you write to her, please say that you are a member of Irish PEN. This helps them with their records.

Mahvash Sabet is an award-winning poet and teacher from Iran. In 2017, she was chosen as the winner of the PEN Pinter Prize for a Writer of Courage by fellow poet Michael Longley.

Having already spent several long years in detention between 2008 and 2017, Mahvash Sabet was once again arrested in Iran in July 2022. She has since been sentenced to a further ten years in prison on spurious charges.

PEN is deeply concerned by reports that Sabet has been subjected to torture in detention. We continue to call for her immediate and unconditional release, and for the release of the many other Iranians currently in detention in violation of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful protest.

English PEN has announced Mahvash Sabet as an Honorary Member.She is featured in their ongoing PENWrites campaign. Please take a few moments to send her a message of solidarity and hope.

You can read some of Mahvash Sabet’s memoir and poetry here:


PEN Friends

Statement from Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann on the death of Victoria Amelina

3rd July 2023: A Statement from Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann on the death of our dear friend Victoria Amelina

Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann is shocked and appalled by the news that renowned Ukrainian author and human rights activist, Victoria Amelina, has been murdered by a Russian missile strike on a popular restaurant in Kramatorsk on 27th June 2023. Twelve other people, including children, are known to have been killed in this vicious attack. Sixty people were injured.
Victoria was a dear friend and much loved colleague. She has visited Dublin several times. Everyone who has met her, read her work or heard her speak here, has been moved and affected by her words and by her presence.  At an Irish PEN event in Smock Alley during the Dublin Arts and Human Rights Festival last October, she spoke powerfully and movingly about the Russian invasion of her native country, and of Russia’s intention to obliterate all traces of Ukrainian culture. She also described her own work in progress: War and Justice Diary: Looking at Women Looking at War, and her ongoing humanitarian work as a war crimes investigator with Truth Hounds.
During that same visit to Dublin, Victoria kept young children enthralled and entertained during a storytelling session at Pearse Street Library. Both of these Irish PEN events were supported by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature. At a Vicar Street concert earlier this year, organised by, among others,  Fighting Words and Ukrainian Action Ireland, Victoria stilled the packed theatre with her words, redolent of her courage and determination to secure justice. Two of her essays in English were republished here last year: “Nothing Bad Has Ever Happened”, in the Irish Times, and “Homo Oblivious” in the Dublin Review of Books. Both of these essays predate the illegal Russian invasion of last February.
Although she was an award-winning novelist, Victoria set her own career aside, as many other Ukrainians have, in order to work for her country. She spoke of turning to poetry in the midst of this challenging work: ‘As if shells hit language/ the debris from language/ may look like poems/ But they are not/ This is no poetry too/ Poetry is in Kharkiv/ volunteering for the army’.
When asked how she managed to bear the emotional impact of dealing with atrocities on a daily basis, she said lightly of her and her colleagues’ hugely challenging work: ‘We hug a lot’.

Victoria was due to come back to Dublin in November, to moderate an Irish PEN/ Dublin Book Festival event exploring the role of culture in times of war and the absolute necessity to preserve it, describing writers as ‘caretakers of cultural memory’.
Philippe Sands says that Victoria’s death is “emblematic of a merciless and terrible war, prosecuted by men who feel no compunction acting in manifest violation of the most basic precepts of humanity. Victoria Amelina is gone, but she will always be present, her values embodied in the decency she represented and the accountability she sought. Her killing is a most terrible crime – her legacy will include a renewed and unbreakable commitment to accountability for those who perpetrate such  horrors, in a land she cared for with passion and brilliance.”
Paul Muldoon writes: “Let’s be clear about this. This was not an accident. The type of missile used in this attack is deadly accurate. This was a civilian target and represents a war crime pure and simple.”
The world is a darker place today. Victoria Amelina, award-winning writer and war crimes investigator, has become the most recent victim in a long list of brutal war crimes perpetrated by Russia against the civilian population of Ukraine. Our sincere condolences go to her family, her many friends, and to her colleagues in PEN Ukraine and Truth Hounds. We call for an immediate end to such atrocities. (End statement)