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Niamh Campbell awarded 2021 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature

Photograph: Niamh Campbell

Niamh Campbell has been awarded the 2021 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, for her debut novel, This Happy.

The Rooney Prize, awarded annually since 1976, is one of the most distinguished Irish literary awards. The Prize, which celebrates an outstanding body of work by an emerging Irish writer under 40 years of age, is adjudicated by a panel of judges and administered by the Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre for Creative Writing in the School of English, Trinity College Dublin.

Niamh, who lives in Dublin, is currently writer in residence at University College Dublin and lectures in the Department of English at Maynooth University. Her award-winning novel, This Happy, was published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson in 2020 and nominated for the Kate O’Brien Award, the An Post Irish Book Awards, the John McGahern Book Prize, and the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year award.

In 2020 Niamh also won the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award for her story, Love Many. Her second book, We Were Young, is coming in February 2022.

Speaking prior to the Rooney Prize ceremony, hosted in Trinity, Niamh Campbell said:

It is overwhelming and so gratifying to be given such a prestigious award at so early a stage in my career. I am hugely grateful to Peter Rooney, Jonathan Williams, all the judges and to the Provost of Trinity for their kindness and careful reading.

Jonathan Williams, Chair of the judging panel, explains what stood out about Niamh’s work:

The determining factor in deciding who is conferred with the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature is that the successful writer show promise of further achievement. In some years — such as this one — a single impressive work may be reason enough to warrant winning the award, especially if there is evidence of other writings in progress and the possibility of the writer developing in distinctive and intriguing ways. The supple prose and singular and arresting language of Niamh Campbell’s novel This Happy show her to be a worthy recipient of the prize.

The Rooney Prize for Irish Literature is valued at €10,000 through the generosity of Dr Peter Rooney, who continues the Rooney family’s association with Irish literature and support for the longest-established literary prize in Ireland.

Dr Peter Rooney added:

Niamh writes with passion and erudition, displaying a complexity of emotion that challenges traditional representations of love. Her writing flows from one beautiful sentence to the next and I am thrilled to add her name to our long list of talented Prize-winning writers.


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: Jonathan Williams, Literary Agent (Chair); 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, playwright and prison teacher; Sinéad Mac Aodha O’Dwyer, Executive Director of Literature Ireland; and Rosie Lavan, critic (Assistant Professor of English TCD).

Previous Winners of the Rooney Prize