Book 5 Key Events for €55 

Ennis Book Club Festival’s Christmas offer is back this year and will make a great gift for readers and booklovers alike.  Under the guidance of the festival’s Artistic Director Martina Durac, the team have been busy putting together a vibrant programme of events for EBCF 2024, which takes place from Friday 1st – Sunday 3rd March. 

As part of the 5 for €55 Christmas offer audiences will get to enjoy the following 5 key events taking place as part of EBCF 2024: Claire Kilroy and Sinéad Gleeson in conversation with Edel Coffey, (Friday  1st   March, Templegate Hotel); Denise Mina, Andrea Mara and Doug Johnstone discuss crime fiction with Andrea Carter; (Friday 1st  March, glór); Michael Magee, Lauren Mckenzie & Colin Barrett talk about writing your first novel with Peter Murphy, (Saturday 2nd March, glór); in a Saturday night special event Pulitzer-nominated writer, Rebecca Makkai joins Belinda McKeon in conversation, (Saturday 2nd March, glór) and the ever popular Sunday Symposium returns, this year exploring the theme Breaking the Cycle of Poverty: A crisis of imagination?(Sunday 3rd March, glór). 

Claire Kilroy and Sinéad Gleeson will join in conversation with Edel Coffey to talk about the creative work they’re each drawn to and its inspirations. Claire Kilroy returns with her first novel in 10 years, Soldier Sailor, a beautifully immersive foray into the chaotic early years of motherhood. Sinéad Gleeson, essayist and journalist, whose soon-to-be released debut novel, Hagstone, draws us deep into the power of folklore, landscape and the feminine. 

EBCF has assembled a stellar line-up for the crime fiction event, overseen by Andrea Carter, herself a writer of note. Described as “crime-writing royalty”, Denise Mina has published many fine novels, with rich storytelling and a clear seam of social history running through them. Doug Johnstone’s work is varied and touching, with a series of books that brim with wit and tenderness, whilst Andrea Mara has always had “dark stories rattling around” in her head and she’s had great success turning them into layered and unsettling thrillers. 

In Writing your First Novel, three authors chat about their experiences of writing their debut novels. Michael Magee has created a vivid and complex world of a young man trying to find his place in the world with his first novel, Close to Home. In Couples, Lauren Mackenzie explores what keeps the heart beating in our loving, close relationships when life takes an unexpected turn. With Wild Houses, from the acclaimed short-story writer Colin Barrett, we are in a world where outsiders collide, and unexpected events bring chaos. Peter Murphy, novelist and musician, steers this trio through what will surely be an absorbing discussion.

On Saturday evening, EBCF is delighted to welcome Chicago-based writer Rebecca Makkai to Ennis for an in-depth conversation with Belinda McKeon. In her extraordinary book, The Great Believers, Makkai delivered an enthralling and emotionally riveting story about what it’s like to live during times of crisis. Rebecca’s books fizz with piercing wit and humour, great characterisation and complex plots. This will be a riveting conversation with Belinda McKeon, also an acclaimed novelist and non-fiction writer.

The final event in the 5 for €55 is the ever popular and hugely entertaining Sunday Symposium, this year focusing on poverty. While most of us don’t want to think about or ever experience it, poverty is a very real part of life in Ireland. Join writer and broadcaster Justine McCarthy along with lecturer and commentator Dr Rory Hearne whose work explores housing rights and inequality, for a timely and necessary debate about what we mean when we talk about poverty and how can we change the narrative. They will be joined by two other guests for a lively and challenging event.

Tickets on sale from Monday 11th December.
A limited number of 5 for €55 events can be booked online or by phone or in person at glór Box Office or online at The 5 for €55 package offer runs until Friday December 29th.
A booking fee applies.

President Higgins congratulates Fintan O'Toole on winning the 2024 Robert B. Silvers prize for journalism

"No one in Ireland will be surprised at the recognition which has been given across the Atlantic of the work of Fintan O'Toole, through his award of the 2024 Robert B. Silvers prize for journalism.

As the judges have identified, Fintan's political commentary and cultural and historical scholarship have been of the highest quality over a number of decades.

While the Silvers-Dudley prizes have only been awarded for three years to date, they have already established themselves as respected prizes for outstanding achievement in the areas of Journalism, Arts Writing and Literary Criticism.

May I send my congratulations to Fintan O'Toole on this thoroughly deserved recognition."

Fintan O’Toole is a columnist with The Irish Times and advising editor of The New York Review of Books. He has previously been awarded both the Orwell Prize and the European Press Prize. “Fintan O’Toole’s writing is characterized by incisive political commentary and wry, sometimes acerbic humor,” our judges wrote. “It is backed by serious cultural and historical scholarship and a profound understanding of human foibles and frailties.” His most recent book is We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland. He is currently working on the official biography of Seamus Heaney.

Kerry Bog Pony Society teams up with Bunratty Castle and Folk Park
The Kerry Bog Pony Cooperative Society has teamed up with Bunratty Castle and Folk Park in County Clare as part of a joint initiative to preserve and promote awareness of one of Ireland's rarest breeds of pony.
The popular visitor attraction, which already is home to a range of Irish native breeds, has engaged with the Society to secure a pair of Kerry Bog Ponies for its farm.
The Kerry Bog Pony has experienced a resurgence in recent years having declined in numbers throughout the 20th century to only 26 known mares and 6 stallions in 1990. Today there are around 450 ponies with approximately 50 foals being registered each year.
Little is known of the origins of the Kerry Bog Pony. The original ponies identified by John Mulvihill were located in South Kerry. Based on their genetics it has been suggested that the ponies could have been imported by the Vikings who had an encampment at Beginish near Valentia Island from the 10th to the 12th century.
"We are very grateful to The Kerry Bog Pony Cooperative Society for the support they have given us in reaching out on social media to pony breeders and owners across the country with a view to securing a pair of ponies,” explained Niall Moloney, Farm Manager at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.
“One of our primary missions in Bunratty is to increase awareness of native Irish breeds and how they have formed part of our social and cultural history in Ireland down through the centuries,” he continued. “We are looking to expand on our collection of native Irish animals from Droimeann cattle to Irish Wolfhounds and from Irish Red Deer to Tamworth pigs, and, in doing so, help to preserve and promote our heritage.”
Tomás Rosengrave, Chair of The Kerry Bog Pony Cooperative Society commented, “We are very excited to have the opportunity to work with Bunratty Castle and Folk Park on this project and in the future on educating all visitors to the Folk Park on our native Kerry Bog Pony while also celebrating its heritage and character. The Kerry Bog Pony is a very versatile breed, makes an excellent child’s riding pony but also excels in many equestrian sports such as carriage driving for adults. We are delighted that all visitors to the Bunratty Castle Folk Park Farm will have the opportunity to get know this great Irish breed of pony.”
Kerry Bog Pony owners or breeders are asked to contact Niall Moloney on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit or

A new report shows The Shannon Airport Group delivers a major contribution of almost €4 billion (€3.96bn) to Ireland’s GDP,  and supports over 20,300 jobs across the Irish workforce, and contributes €643m in tax revenues.

Published today, the report independently produced by economic advisory firm Oxford Economics, highlights the significant positive impact of The Shannon Airport Group to the Irish and Mid-West economy in 2022. The report also considers the catalytic benefits of Shannon Airport to the Irish economy, through connectivity, tourism, and trade. In addition, it makes a number of recommendations to maximise the contribution that The Shannon Airport Group makes to the Mid-West and Irish economies to help rebalance national growth. 

The Oxford Economic Impact report quantifies The Shannon Airport Group’s economic contribution to the Irish economy. The analysis reflects the direct, indirect, and induced contribution that it makes through its own activities, and the activities of firms operating in the Shannon Campus and Group’s other business parks in the Mid-West and South-West of Ireland. 

Findings also show that Shannon Airport is an enabler of trade through the facilitation of imports and exports. In addition, Shannon Airport-facilitated tourism is a major contributor to Irish GDP.

This is reflected in a series of testimonials in the report outlining the positive impact of the Group, from organisations including Northern Trust, Ei Electronics, Jaguar Land Rover, Chambers of Commerce, University of Limerick, and IDA Ireland.

Commenting on the findings, Neil McCullough from Oxford Economics and one of the report’s authors said, “The Shannon Airport Group makes a major economic contribution to the Mid-West region and Ireland, and has the potential to do even more in the future. However, one of the areas we note in our report is that Ireland’s aviation policy has to date failed to create a level playing field for Ireland’s regional airports to flourish. Given that airports can drive regional growth, and that Project Ireland 2040 aims to rebalance growth across Ireland, there is a strong argument for providing state aid to Shannon Airport.

“There is strong evidence that airports can have a positive impact on local and regional economies and Governments are recognising the benefits of having a balanced aviation sector. If a country has an excessive reliance on a single airport, it can concentrate economic growth and any disruptions could cause a significant impact on the tourism sector, as well as the economy as a whole.”

To maximise the contribution that The Shannon Airport Group makes to the Mid-West and Irish economies, the report makes a series of recommendations including:

Government should update the Irish Aviation Policy published in 2015 to help it achieve the long-term growth targets set out in Project Ireland 2040.
Government should review its decision to exclude regional airports above one million passengers from state aid within the Regional Airports Programme. 
Government and tourism boards should further promote Shannon Airport as the gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way. Ease of travel, both through the Airport and onward to other destinations is a clear aspect that differentiates Shannon’s offer to prospective visitors from that of Dublin, which is more prone to congestion. 
Welcoming the findings of the report, Mary Considine, CEO of The Shannon Airport Group said, “The report gives us a comprehensive assessment of the economic contribution that The Shannon Airport Group makes to the Mid-West region and Ireland’s economy in 2022, in supporting businesses and livelihoods, at a time when we were building back after the pandemic. We welcome the report’s findings and recommendations, which ultimately highlight what we have achieved and can further achieve with the right policies and supports in place.”

Speaking at the launch, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Jack Chambers TD said, “The Government recognises the impact The Shannon Airport Group has as a major economic driver for the region in attracting both FDI and indigenous business, along with providing vital air connectivity for the Mid-West and beyond. The airport has made a strong recovery from the collapse of air travel during Covid.

“Shannon has a key role to play in rebalancing Ireland’s aviation landscape, alleviating the congestion at Dublin Airport and delivering balanced regional development for our country. This report is a very useful reminder of the contribution which The Shannon Airport Group is making in terms of jobs and investment and its recommendations give us a lot to consider.”

by Faye Curran on Newstalk
Protestors have gathered on the Conor Pass to call on the State to buy it and turn it into a national park.

As one of the highest mountain passes in Ireland, the Conor Pass in Co Kerry provides a scenic way to travel from the north to south coast of the Dingle Peninsula through narrow, twisting roads.

In August it was announced that the Conor Pass had been put on the market for €10 million by the American individual who currently owns it.

This morning, protestors gathered at the scenic site to call on Minister of State Malcolm Noonan and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to ensure that the State buys Conor Pass and turns it into a national park.

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Uplift Ireland Director Siobhán O'Donoghue said the Conor Pass is an area of "national, iconic, outstanding beauty and rich diversity".

"It's an international tourist attraction so, this is a fantastic opportunity for Malcolm Noonan, the Minister responsible for national parks, to ensure that it's saved and protected for the future," she said.

Save and Protect
Ms O'Donoghue said the pass needs to be "saved and protected" because Ireland is suffering from "extreme habitat destruction and nature loss".

"We haven't got enough land protected, we haven't got enough land in Ireland [where] the nature and wildlife and biodiversity diversity is protected – this would guarantee that," she said.

Ms O'Donoghue said turning the area into a national park does not necessarily mean it will become a "major destination" for tours.

"Communities are trying to make walking paths and entice eco-tourism as a way forward for communities that are really, really struggling to survive," she said.

"This is a perfect opportunity to do that."

Ms O'Donoghue said €10 million is not a lot for Government to spend considering "what is at stake".

"Right now, a very wealthy developer in the US owns the Conor Pass, he's even got a website trying to pawn it off internationally to God only knows who," she said.

"There are conversations right across Ireland at the moment about the state of our lakes and rivers.

"There are councils up and down the country trying to put in walkways through land to encourage walking and tourism and pathways – so there is a lot at stake actually."