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Author Mark O’Connell awarded the 2019 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature

Mark O’Connell

Author Mark O’Connell has been awarded €10,000 as this year’s winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, intended for emerging Irish writers under the age of forty. Mark was awarded the prize for his debut book To Be a Machine, published by Doubleday Books in the US, and by Granta Publications in the UK. This is the first time the Rooney Prize has been given to a writer of non-fiction.  To Be a Machine, subtitled Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death, is the first full-length exploration of transhumanism, a movement that seeks to cheat mortality and use technology for human evolution. To Be a Machine reflects a cultural obsession with futuristic dystopias, fuelled by TV series such as Westworld, Black Mirror and Altered Carbon. Mark has a PhD in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin and is a columnist for Slate, a staff writer at The Millions, and a regular contributor to The New Yorker's Page-Turner blog, The Dublin Review and The Guardian. Mark's book has been awarded the 2018 Wellcome Book Prize and was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction.

The ceremony was hosted in Trinity College Dublin by the Provost, while the prize is administered by the Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing to honour this year’s emerging Irish writer who shows exceptional promise. The event also paid tribute to the Rooney Prize benefactors, the late Daniel Rooney, a former US Ambassador to Ireland, who sadly passed away in 2017, and his wife, Patricia Rooney. The College is deeply honoured that Dr Peter Rooney, their nephew, is the new benefactor of the Rooney Prize, continuing the Rooney family’s long association with Irish Literature and support for the longest-established prize in Ireland.

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The Rooney Prize for Literature

The Rooney Prize for Irish Literature is awarded annually to an emerging Irish writer under forty years of age, through the generosity of the late Dr Daniel Rooney, a former US Ambassador to Ireland, and former Chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh, USA and his wife Patricia. Dr Peter Rooney, their nephew, and his husband, Mr John Curran, will continue to support the longest-established literary award in Ireland.

The prize was established in 1976 and until 2007 it was administered by Mr Jim Sherwin. Since 2007 the prize has been administered in the Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing of the School of English.

It should be noted that the prize is awarded for a body of work that the selection committee considers to be one of exceptional promise. A single remarkable work may warrant an award but the committee is keen to consider writers who have begun to establish an oeuvre. Publishers who may wish to bring the committee's attention to a writer or writers whom they think should be considered for the prize, may seek further details of how to do so from Ms Sophia Ní Sheoin ( at the Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre. One should note that in its deliberations, the committee is not limited to such suggestions.

The selection committee for the Rooney Prize comprises: Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, poet, critic and editor (Fellow Emeritus, TCD), Michael Cronin, Director of Trinity Centre for Literary and Cultural Translation and Professor of French, TCD, Carlo Gébler, novelist and playwright, Riana O’Dwyer, critic (Fellow Emeritus, NUI Galway), Rosie Lavan, critic (Assistant Professor of English TCD) and Jonathan Williams (Literary Agent and Editor).

Previous Winners of the Rooney Prize

  • 1976 Heno Magee
  • 1977 Desmond Hogan
  • 1978 Peter Sheridan
  • 1979 Kate Cruise O'Brien
  • 1980 Bernard Farrell
  • 1981 Neil Jordan
  • 1982 Medbh McGuckian
  • 1983 Dorothy Nelson
  • 1984 Ronan Sheehan
  • 1985 Frank McGuinness
  • 1986 Paul Mercier
  • 1987 Deirdre Madden
  • 1988 Glenn Patterson
  • 1989 Robert McLiam Wilson
  • 1990 Mary Dorcey
  • 1991 Anne Enright
  • 1992 Hugo Hamilton
  • 1993 Gerard Fanning
  • 1994 Colum McCann
  • 1995 Philip MacCann
  • 1996 Mike McCormack
  • 1997 Anne Haverty
  • 1998 David Wheatley
  • 1999 Mark O'Rowe
  • 2000 Claire Keegan
  • 2001 Keith Ridgway
  • 2002 Caítriona O' Reilly
  • 2003 Eugene O'Brien
  • 2004 Claire Kilroy
  • 2005 Nick Laird
  • 2006 Philip Ó Ceallaigh
  • 2007 Kevin Barry
  • 2008 Leontia Flynn
  • 2009 Kevin Power
  • 2010 Leanne O'Sullivan
  • 2011 Lucy Caldwell
  • 2012 Nancy Harris
  • 2013 Ciarán Collins
  • 2014 Colin Barrett
  • 2015 Sara Baume
  • 2016 Doireann Ní Ghríofa
  • 2017 Elizabeth Reapy
  • 2018 Caitriona Lally
  • 2019 Mark O'Connell