Writer Caitriona Lally wins 2018 Rooney Prize

Posted on: 25 September 2018

Writer Caitriona Lally was announced as winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature 2018 for emerging Irish writers at a ceremony in Trinity College Dublin this evening. The event also paid tribute to Dr Peter Rooney as the benefactor of the prize, the nephew of the former US Ambassador to Ireland and President Emeritus of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dan Rooney who passed away last year.

The prize is awarded for a body of work by a young Irish writer that shows exceptional promise. Announcing the 2018 winner, chair of the selection committee, literary agent, Jonathan Williams said that Caitriona Lally is a worthy winner of the 2018 award, her work was warmly commended by the six panel members.  She is the fourth female to be given the prize in the last four years.

Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast, winner Caitriona Lally and Peter Rooney, benefactor of the Rooney Prize.

The Rooney Prize for Literature can be awarded for a body of work or for just a single published volume. “Caitriona Lally’s only novel, Eggshells, is a work of impressive imaginative reach, witty, subtle and occasionally endearingly unpredictable,” said Williams.

Assistant Professor in Irish Writing, Dr Rosie Lavan, a member of the selection panel, provided an analysis of the novel at an award ceremony in Trinity this evening, speaking of how Eggshells, “reveals an artistic vision which is distinctive in contemporary Irish writing”.  The panel believes that this fine first novel shows the promise of a fruitful literary career.

Caitriona Lally’s debut novel, Eggshells, was shortlisted for the Newcomer Award at the 2015 Irish Book Awards and the Kate O’Brien Award. Eggshells  is published by HarperCollins in Ireland and the UK, and by Melville House in the US. She is currently working on a second novel.

(L-R) Carlo Gebler, Riana O’Dwyer, and Éilís Ní Dhuibhne (Rooney Prize Committee members); winner Caitriona Lally; Jonathan Williams (Rooney Prize Committee); Peter Rooney (benefactor of the Rooney Prize); and Dr Rosie Lavan (Rooney Prize Committee member and School of English).

Caitriona was delighted with the award: “Getting the phone call to say I’d won the Rooney prize was just pure magic. It was a Monday, I’d been having a rough day  up early for my cleaning job, tearing home to mind the baby, baby wouldn’t nap and was making her feelings known — so hearing Jonathan Williams say down the phone: ‘You’ve won the Rooney ’ — it was surreal. It felt completely at odds with the day I was having. I’d virtually given up on ever finishing my second novel, it all seemed so pointless. There was a silence of a few seconds while I tried to figure out what this Rooney was, and when Jonathan elaborated, I was completely stunned into a silence that wasn’t best suited to a phone call.Finding out I’d won the prize gave me a confidence I’d lacked the past couple of years, and sent me back to the desk to really knuckle down and finish my second novel — the feeling that your work has been acknowledged is unbeatable. And the cash isn’t unwelcome either…”

The Rooney Prize for Irish Literature is administered by the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing at the School of English at Trinity.