The 119 nominations were made from bookshops, libraries, arts organisations, book clubs and individual writers, with a total of 34 potential candidates. Many familiar names, young and old, were among them, including John Banville, William Trevor, Edna O’Brien, Emma Donoghue, Roddy Doyle, Sebastian Barry and Eimear McBride. The role will be a highly active one and not all the nominees felt able to be considered;
Colm Tóibín withdrew because his past involvement with the Arts Council was, he felt, a conflict of interest. The shortening of the shortlist made things slightly easier for the panel of judges (three from Ireland, three of us from elsewhere). We were, at any rate, unanimous. As our chair, Paul Muldoon, put it, Anne Enright’s fiction has helped the Irish make sense of their lives for the past quarter century – and helped the rest of the world understand Ireland.