Lifetime Achievement Winner revealed for the ‘An Post Irish Book Awards 2021’

Irish writer Sebastian Barry to be honoured with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award at the 'An Post Irish Book Awards 2021'

- Barry’s literary career spans three decades, delivering fifteen plays, ten novels, and three poetry collections

- Award will be presented at annual An Post Irish Book Awards on 23 November and winners of 20 categories will also be announced

The An Post Irish Book Awards is delighted to announce that Irish writer Sebastian Barry is the recipient of this year’s ‘Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award’. The award will be presented at a virtual awards ceremony on 23rd November. It will be broadcast on

Sebastian Barry will join a host of other distinguished recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award including Colm Tóibín, Thomas Kinsella, John McGahern, John Montague, J.P. Donleavy, Paul Durcan, John Banville, Seamus Heaney, Maeve Binchy, Edna O’Brien, Jennifer Johnston, William Trevor and Eavan Boland, all of whom have previously received the ‘Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award.’

In conferring the award, the Board of the Irish Book Awards stated:

“Sebastian Barry has occupied a central position in the cultural life of Ireland for over three decades as a poet, playwright and novelist. In a literary career that has delivered fifteen plays, ten novels, and three poetry collections, Barry has been in the van of Ireland’s contemporary literary renaissance most notably in the way he has courageously drawn on family history, personal experiences and memories to illuminate neglected aspects of Irish culture frequently glossed over in the official histories.”

A quintessentially Irish writer, he is greatly beloved in his own country for his work, his intellect, and his warm disposition. Booksellers, like readers and critics, have favourite writers. Any book sold keeps Yeats’s “greasy till” chiming but there are certain writers whose work booksellers actively enjoy hand-selling to their customers. Booksellers warm to authors who fulfil the peripheral demands of public profile and trade interaction with good grace. It is those good friends of the book trade that our Lifetime Achievement Award is designed to honour and no writer has been a greater friend to Irish booksellers than Sebastian Barry.

Since 2018, Barry has occupied the role of The Laureate for Irish Fiction, performing his duties with great good grace and magnanimity. Of his position he has said, “We live in a golden age of prose writing in Ireland. And I am really happy to be the ambassador of this rather stupendous reality for a few years.”

Sebastian Barry, winner of the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement, says:

“Thank you so much for this beautiful award. For forty years I have been the grateful citizen of a properly mysterious village called the Irish book trade. You are all wonderful, dedicated, unusual people. I salute your alchemy and your startling powers.”

“An award like this makes a writer feel that their efforts over the many years have been worth the candle.. those boxes, and boxes of candles burnt at both ends. That’s a joyous feeling. The best feeling!”

The An Post Irish Book Awards are dedicated to honouring Irish writers across the entire publishing spectrum. This year’s shortlist features a diverse mix of exceptional writing from new and established writers across 20 categories, and the winners will be announced on Tuesday 23rd November.

The categories are:
  • Eason Novel of the Year
  • Irish Independent Crime Fiction Book of the Year
  • Eason Sport book of the Year in Association with Ireland AM
  • Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year
  • Odgers Berndtson Non-Fiction Book of the Year
  • Dubray Biography of the Year
  • Bookselling Ireland Cookbook of the Year
  • National Book Tokens Popular Fiction Book of the Year
  • Bookstation Lifestyle Book of the Year
  • Best Irish Published Book of the Year
  • Specsavers Children’s Book of the Year (Junior)
  • Specsavers Children’s Book of the Year (Senior)
  • Teen and Young Adult Book of the Year
  • RTÉ Audience Choice Award
  • Library Association of Ireland Author of the Year
  • Short Story of the Year
  • Listowel Writers’ Week Irish Poem of the Year
  • The Love Leabhar Gaeilge Irish Language Book of the Year
  • The An Post Bookshop of the Year


A one-hour special will be broadcast on RTÉ One television on Wednesday 8th December exploring the six books and authors shortlisted for the ‘An Post Irish Book Awards Book of the Year 2021’, culminating in the reveal of this year's overall winner.

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