In-conversation with Dermot Bolger

A core aspect of the 'Finding a Voice: Dermot Bolger Writer in Residence' public programme will be the ‘In conversation with Dermot Bolger’ series. Details of these events and the ‘In conversation…’ series are listed below:

'John Sheahan in-conversation with Dermot Bolger' 3.00pm Sunday 20 March 2016, National Museum of Ireland - Decorative Arts and History, Dublin.

Dermot Bolger commences his term as Writer in Residence at the National Museum of Ireland - Decorative Arts and History, with an intimate conversation with a true Dublin legend, John Sheahan.

Sheahan is a notable Irish violinist, tin whistle player and folk musician, and the last surviving member of the original and definitive five man line-up of the world famous band, The Dubliners.

He is also a composer in his own right of classics like The Marino Waltz. In recent years he has acquired a considerable reputation as a poet, enhanced by the recent appearance of his debut collection of poems, Fiddle Dreams, published in his 76th year.

In this rare public interview with Dermot Bolger, John Sheahan will perform his latest musical composition, Lament for Michael Mallin, written in memory of one of executed leaders of in the Easter Rising; remember friends like Luke Kelly (whose own father was injured by bullets fired on Bachelor’s Walk after the Howth Gun Running); read from his poetry; reminisce about the many famous musicians with whom he embarked on a life-long journey through music, and play some of his most beloved tunes.

It promises to be a unique insight in the life and times of one of Ireland’s best loved and respected musicians.


'A Reading by Paul Durcan in Memory of Major John MacBride and the MacBride Family' 3.00pm Sunday 17 April 2016, National Museum of Ireland - Decorative Arts and History, Dublin.

Major John MacBride (7 May 1865-5 May 1916) is one of the forgotten figures of the Easter Rising. Born in Westport, Co Mayo, MacBride – an active member of the IRB – was regarded by British authorities as a “dangerous nationalist” long before he commanded an Irish Brigade against British rule in the Boer War.

Finding himself in Dublin when the Rising started, he immediately offered his services to the Irish Volunteers and, despite having had no pre-warning or involvement in planning the insurrection; he was among those executed in its aftermath.

Paul Durcan – one of Ireland’s greatest living poets – is related to Major MacBride through his mother, the late Sheila Durcan (nee MacBride), who was the daughter of MacBride’s older brother Joseph.

Durcan is the god-son of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Sean MacBride, who was John MacBride’s son.

In what is essentially a private reading in memory of a deceased relative, executed a century ago, Paul Durcan discusses his memories of the MacBride family and reads poems in memory of Major John MacBride, in memory of the poet’s mother and of other family members.

Born in 1944 in Dublin, Paul Durcan’s many books include O Westport in the Light of Asia Minor, A Snail in My Prime and the Laughter of Mothers. He has been honoured with numerous awards including Irish American Cultural Institute Poetry Award, the 1990 Whitbread Prize for his collection Daddy Daddy, a Cholmondley Award for poetry in 2001 and he has held the Ireland Chair of Poetry and is a member of Aosdana. In 2009 he marked four decades of writing with a magnificent collection, Life is a Dream: Forty Years of Reading Poetry, 1967-2007, which reaffirmed the constant vision and artistic integrity of one of the most powerful, humane and original voices in modern poetry. This year saw the publication of his twenty-third collection, The Days of Surprise.


 Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising 'The Curatorial Team in conversation with Dermot Bolger', 2.00pm Saturday 14 May, National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History, Dublin.

The National Museum of Ireland has the most significant range of artefacts associated with 1916. This event will take you behind the scenes to explore the wealth of objects associated with the Museum’s Easter Week collections, some of which are in the, Proclaiming a Republic exhibition.

Find out more about the story behind these object and how they came into the Museum. Museum professionals Sandra Heise, Brenda Malone and Dr Darragh Gannon will give insight into how they developed the exhibition Proclaiming a Republic from inception to delivery.

'Brian Keenan in conversation with Dermot Bolger' 3.00pm Sunday 19 June 2016, National Museum of Ireland - Decorative Arts and History, Dublin.

In every conflict situation innocent passers-by always find themselves caught up in the crossfire and the currents of history. The Easter Rising saw a far greater number of civilian casualties than either Irish Volunteers or British Army deaths, with estimate of up to 2,500 ordinary Dubliners being killed or wounded during that conflict that suddenly erupted around them.

Few writers have written more powerfully than Brian Keenan about the terrifying experience of being a civilian unexpectedly caught up in a conflict situation. An Evil Cradling – his brilliant account of being kidnapped and held as a hostage in Lebanon for four and a half years – is regarded as a modern classic of autobiography and as a remarkable testament to the survival of the human spirit under extreme conditions.

Brian Keenan grew up in Belfast. From 1990 he spent four years living in the West of Ireland, decompressing from the previous four and a half years spent captive in Beirut. Since 1995 he has resided in Dublin. His first book, An Evil Cradling, won the International Time-Life PEN Award, The Christopher Award (New York) The Irish Times Award and the Ewart Biggs Award. Since then he has written two travel books, Between Extremes and Four Quarters of Light; a novel Turlough and a Belfast memoir, I'll Tell Me Ma.

In conversation with Dermot Bolger he will discuss his experience of being held hostage in a time of war and his more recent experiences of exploring present day Lebanon, as a free man now hopelessly captivated by that city. He will read from his work in a conversation about his life that will be opened up to the audience.


'Writing the Past: An Afternoon with Dermot Bolger and Donal O'Kelly' 2.00pm Sunday 14 August, National Museum of Ireland - Country Life, Mayo.

One of the most tragic figures killed during the Easter Rising was the pacifist, feminist and socialist Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, who suffered a summary execution by a British officer.

   The award-winning playwright and actor, Donal O’Kelly – one of Ireland’s most acclaimed theatre practitioners – has crafted a new one man 50 minute play, “Hairy Jaysus”, which examines Francis Sheehy-Skeffington’s legacy as viewed through the eyes of a Dublin street beggar today.

Dubbed “Hairy Jaysus” by his friend James Joyce, Sheehy-Skeffington – an atheist – was often called a crank. “A crank”, he responded, “is a small instrument that makes revolutions”.

A relentless campaigner, with his wife Hanna, for votes for women, he was a prominent supporter of the Dublin workers during the 1913 Lockout. Sentenced to hard labour in 1915 for making anti-war speeches, he went on hunger-and-thirst strike until released. He was shot dead in Portobello Barracks Dublin during the Easter Rising, having been mistreated and used as a human shield. 

In this centenary of 1916, Sheehy-Skeffington’s spirit of resistance to normalized brutality is needed more than ever, according to O’Kelly, who says that: “The man Seán O’Casey called ‘the soul of revolt against man's inhumanity to man’ is hugely relevant today”.

This event in Turlough Park House will open with a rare opportunity for an Irish audience to see O’Kelly’s perform “Hairy Jaysus”, which opens in New York in April 2016.  This will be followed by a reading of Dermot Bolger’s poem, The Stolen Future – about those children who lost their lives during in Rising.

Bolger will then interview Donal O’Kelly about his career as a writer deeply engaged with political and historical themes. These have ranged from the Easter Rising to the Corrib Gas controversy and from his famous recreation of the rescue of Fenian prisoners from Australia in 1876 in his play, Catalpa, to his recreation of the dance hall of the Leitrim communist, James Gralton, who, in 1933, became the only Irishmen ever deported from Ireland.

This afternoon is a rare chance to hear two committer writers discuss the ways in which they write about the past and hope to make it resonate with a contemporary audience. Opening up into an audience discussion, it offers an insight into the practice of writing for both the stage and the page.

Bookings for events taking place at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Mayo, can be made via email at


Two further 'In-conversations...' will take place in May and September 2016 as part of the 'Remembering the Battle of the Somme' aspect of the 'Dermot Bolger: Writer in Residence' programme.