Hennessy’s proud involvement with the Literary Awards reflects a long standing commitment to the pursuit of excellence by recognising and celebrating authors who have played a significant role in developing the fabric of Irish life through their contributions to Irish literature and demonstrates the importance of nurturing emerging talent and writers.

For the past 39 years, the winners of the Hennessy X.O Literary awards have emerged from the New Irish Writing Page, which is published in The Sunday Tribune on the first Sunday of every month and is open to new and emerging writers who are Irish or normally resident in Ireland. All stories and poems published are eligible for the annual Hennessy X.O Literary Awards.

The New Irish Writing Page has become internationally renowned for picking out future literary stars and launched the careers of Patrick McCabe, Neil Jordan, Dermot Healy, Deirdre Madden, Eilis Ni Duibhne, Frank McGuinness, Sebastian Barry, Dermot Bolger, Joseph O’Connor, Colum McCann, Mary O’Donnell, Mary O’Malley, Vona Groarke, John Boyne, Anne Enright, Hugo Hamilton, Philip O Ceallaigh and many other leading Irish writers.


First Fiction

Rob O’Shea Cut Throat
Madeleine D’Arcy Is this Like Scotland?
Sara O’Loughlin The Beautiful People
John O’Donnell Promise
Oona Frawley Cowtipping
Alice Redmond Other People

Emerging Fiction

James Lawless The Kiss
Andrew Fox Currency
Michael O’Higgins The Migration
Niamh Boyce Steps of Stairs
Alison Wells Bog Body
Kate Dempsey Ginny Doran Writes Down the Whole Honest Truth

Emerging Poetry

Michael Massey Fuchsia, By The Third Day, The Writer & The Dog
Olive Broderick Misconception, Market Forces
Aideen Henry Hymen, The House of Forgotten Things
Cathal McCabe The Marten, The Snowman for Kamil and Julia
Helena Mulkerns Blue Tarpaulin
Cliona O’Connell Migrations, Dinner with Old Friends on the Summer Solstice, Daylight Savings

The 2009 Hennessy X.O Literary Awards winners are:

* Michael O'Higgins in the Emerging Fiction category for his short story The Migration.
* Olive Broderick in the Emerging Poetry category for her poems Market Forces and Misconception
* Madeleine D'Arcy in the First Fiction category for her short story Is This Like Scotland?
* Madeleine D'Arcy was also named New Irish Writer of 2009.

Neil Jordan was inducted into the Hennessy X.O Literary Awards Hall of Fame, joining Hugo Hamilton, Anne Enright, Frank McGuinness, Pat McCabe, Colum McCann, Joe O'Connor and Dermot Bolger.

The 2009 judges were Paula Meehan, Carlo Gebler and Ciaran Carty, editor of New Irish Writing.


Olive Broderick


This is a poem about a moon
that was visible one clear day
in December: three quarters visible
buttermilk against delphinium
as framed in a pane of this window:
and a sequence of airplanes
with short contrails, swimming
through the blue, in its direction,
particularly the first seemed sure
to merge with the stationary orb
but missed it by what looked like
little more that a millimetre.

Market Forces

Tonight, love, the moon is big over Drake's Pool
and the wood on the far bank is clearly defined
in shadow. The air is so clear that I can hear
the faint 'ching, ching, ching' of the breeze against
the masts of the yachts that are moored there.
There is too much sweetness about all this.
Tomorrow everything will be as normal.
All of that has been organised already.
The school run, the groceries, the monthly
- all confidently sorted. Nothing to do now
but figure out how best to tell the children.
When I get home, I imagine, we will talk
'til well past midnight, trying to read between
the lines of a far-off dissertation; and how
the turn of a page can have such disastrous
consequences. But still, hearing in our minds
the voices of our parents, repeat assurances
of how this might well bring something better.
And in the small hours glad to have each other,
whispering, where will we be this time next year?

Comments from judges:

Olive Broderick is a quietly accomplished poet who – in ‘Misconception’ - can look up in to the sky in awe at the beauty of a moon visible in cold daylight of December, and wonder at the illusion created by the vapour trails of a plane about to merge with its orb only to miss by what “looked like little more than a millimetre.” In another poem – ‘Market Forces’ - the moon is again glimpsed but this time at night and with intimations of unease as between the lines a couple prepare for a major upheaval while trying to figure out “how best to tell the children”. Here again a merging of the particular with the universal, elegantly captured.


Madeleine D'Arcy

Is This Like Scotland?

Fintan can smell warm chips as he enters the pub. His stomach rumbles, but it can't be heard above the low-volume anguish of 'Tainted Love' that emanates from a juke box in the corner.

"I haven't heard that in years," Fintan observes, as he leads his father-in-law, Sven, to a comfortable seat in the corner. "When was it in the charts? Late eighties, maybe?"

Sven doesn't know. He could pass for a West Cork farmer, in his sensible anorak and Wellingtons, but, in fact, he's a small-town Swedish dentist.

"So, Sven," says Fintan. "What'll you have?"

Sven knows. "Bimmish."

Fintan goes to the bar and orders two pints of Beamish. One good thing about Sven is that he appreciates a nice pint of stout. One bad thing is that he never buys a round. Fintan's plan was to bring his wife Annika to Ireland to see the land he came from, but Annika insisted on bringing her parents too. They've all been here three days now and Fintan's paid for everything so far: the meals, the hotels, the petrol. Everything.

Fintan watches the first pint swirling into the glass, the deep, almost opaque black liquid swirling, the tan-coloured froth rising to the top, and his mood lightens slightly. He remembers visits to Creedons Hotel in Inchigeela with his Dad when he was a young boy. His father would drink "one for the road" and Fintan would have red lemonade and a packet of Taytos. Then they'd head home in the grey Morris Minor, up the mountain to Gortnahoughtee. The memory is so real Fintan jumps when the barmaid speaks to him.

"Would you like anything else?" she smiles.

"Could I have a packet of Taytos, please? Cheese and Onion, if you have them."

Then Fintan turns his head towards Sven.

"Would you like some Taytos?" he asks. "Or peanuts?"


Fintan turns back to the barmaid and pays. A pint in each hand, he walks carefully over to Sven's table, places the pints reverently on beer mats. He goes back for the crisps, then settles into a chair next to Sven.

"There we go," he says. "Sláinte!"

Fintan and Sven clink their glasses together and then each takes a long slurp of beer.

Fintan begins to feel better, but he's still embittered about the fact that his in-laws don't offer to pay for anything. Not only that, he can't understand why they don't say "Thank you". Maybe it's a cultural thing, even a language thing, he muses. Maybe Swedish people don't say thanks unless it's a big deal. Come to think of it, "Tak" is such a short, curt, thankless kind of word.

Or maybe they're just rude.


Fintan's been married for less than a year. He bought the house in North London three years ago, then his previous girlfriend said You're a nice guy, Fintan, but I don't love you any more. The spark has gone. A few months later his father died. After the funeral Fintan lost interest in his London home, left it half-furnished, spent long hours at work and more time in the pub than was advisable.

Then the slim blonde Cindy-doll moved into a bed-sit in the house next to his and thrilled him back to his former self. Annika, for it was she, was forever knocking on his door for help: lost keys, a suspected rat, a leaky radiator, she'd run out of cigarettes… She thrilled him so much he overlooked the fact that she never said "Thank you"... or even "Tak".

When her landlord threw her out. Annika moved in with him. The sex was amazing – after a week of co-habitation, he proposed to her.

She said "Yes", but didn't fancy the ring. They went to Aspreys in New Bond Street where she chose one five times more expensive.

"Darling, this is the one I want," she said. Mesmerised with happiness, he produced his credit card and willingly signed a piece of paper handed to him on a silver salver by the shop assistant, who wore an expensive suit.

She didn't say "Thanks" or even "Tak". She was busy admiring the ring.


Fintan gulps his pint, shoves a handful of crisps in his mouth. He swallows too quickly and begins to choke, so he drinks some more, then wipes his mouth.

"So, Sven. How's the pint?"


"I wonder how long they'll be?"


"Will I get a menu?"

Sven nods and looks at his glass.

"I will, so." Fintan's stomach rumbles in anticipation as he approaches the bar counter. He picks up four greasy laminated menus from the counter and walks back to where Sven sits, immobile.

"Jesus, I'm hungry all the time," he says to Sven. "Maybe I've worms."

Sven looks at him.

"Forget it," says Fintan.

They drink in silence.

The door opens and Annika and her mother bustle in. Annika carries several plastic bags and so does her mother.

"Got a few bargains," says Annika, as she takes a pair of designer rubber boots out of a bag. They're pink with a flower print.

"Only €69," she says, briskly.

Fintan suspects she's used their joint credit card again but he's afraid to ask. She gets cross when he tries to discuss money, though he's explained he wouldn't mind so much if she'd only warn him in advance of the financial shocks that seem to punctuate his existence these days.

Annika's mother wants mint tea.

"I think we have some out the back," says the barmaid. She disappears.

"Lovely girl, that," says Fintan.

Annika looks at him and raises her eyebrows.

Annika's mother looks round but it's hard to tell what her mood is. Her hands are bony and much older than her face, which seems taut and drawn, as if she's struggling against a high wind. Fintan's not supposed to know about her face lift. Annika warned him not to mention it.

"Is this place ok?" asks Fintan.

"Yah," says Annika's mother.

"So why the…" says Fintan. He nearly said So why the long face? Since they set off from London, the number of times he's almost mentioned cosmetic surgery is phenomenal.

"Where's that girl gone?" says Annika, crossly. "She could have grown the tea by now."


After lunch, they stroll down the street. The sun is shining and a salty breeze floats in from the bay. The rented Land Rover is parked near the edge of the water, and looks as if it's in a television advert.

"Fabulous machine, isn't it?" says Fintan. He pats the dashboard fondly. "I'd love one of these."

"I thought you didn't approve of wrecking the environment," says Annika as she settles herself in the front passenger seat.

"Well, if we lived here it would be practical," says Fintan. "Especially where we're going next." As he pulls away from the kerb, he turns on the radio.

There's not enough love to go around, there's… not enough, croons a male voice.

"Too loud!" shouts Annika's mother from the back seat.

"Yah, too loud," Sven agrees.

"Ok, ok," says Fintan.

Annika turns the radio down.

Sunlight streams into the car. Fintan fumbles around the dashboard, finds his sunglasses, puts them on.

"Do you like it here?" he asks his wife, as he drives. "Isn't it better than North London?"

"It's different."

"It sure is. Remember the gun battles in Green Lanes a few years back? In 2003? Sure, North London was like the Wild West."

"Really?" Annika says, querulously.

"Do you not remember? My old pal Attila, who owns the greengrocers at the corner – he nearly got shot in the cross-fire."

"Really," says Annika.

"He kept that pumpkin for ages, the one with the bullet inside it. Exhibit "A", he called it. I walked past his shop a few minutes before the shoot-out. It could have been my head."

"Well, I like London. You have a good job there. My pay is not so high as yours, but I get staff discount on my clothes…"

"So… you wouldn't consider moving here then?" He takes his eyes off the road to look at her.

"London is ok," she says.


Fintan hasn't said anything to Annika about the field. It's a surprise. When his mother died, he was only six years old; his memories of her have faded now, mixed up with images from old photographs. Fintan remembers everything about Dad though. It was just the two of them together for years, working the farm, and taking care of "the field above". His father had been sentimental about "the field above". He'd managed to hold onto it, even through bad times. "When I've money, Fintan," he'd say, "I'll do up that house. For it's in that house, as you know, that I was born."

Fintan has sold the farm but kept the field. The little house that sits inside it has been derelict for years. It's a house-type common round here; two-up, two-down, overgrown with ivy and creepers. An architect friend was enthusiastic: "It's a fantastic site, Fintan. I'd love to do a design for you. Modern extension to the back, lots of glass, double-height space… We'll keep the old house at the front – make sure we respect the vernacular. Lovely."

"Where are we going?" says Annika. "Is it to the Google Barry place you talked of?"

"No," he says. "We're going up the mountain. You'll love it. We can go to Gougane Barra tomorrow if you like." His stomach rumbles.


As Fintan drives up the mountain, the road gets narrower and bumpier until it's no more than a boreen. Finally, he parks in front of an overgrown hedge, behind which the derelict cottage hides.

He opens the dilapidated farm gate at the side of the house and walks into the field. Sunlight hits broken glass on the path behind the house. It's so quiet that he can hear a rabbit before it scurries across the field a few feet in front of him just as Annika and her parents trail behind him.

"Is it muddy?" says Annika. "I don't want to ruin my shoes."

Fintan stares at the clouds that hang over the valley below. They seem so near the edge of the mountain; they look as if you could touch them. He remembers a time when he believed he could step on one of these clouds and float away. It's warm, even though there's a slight breeze. The Coillte forests that line the hills are felled in uneven patches and remind him of a bad haircut. Only one farmhouse can be seen, miles away. There are shades of greens and blues and greys and browns everywhere, and as the clouds change so do the shadows on the nearby hills.

Fintan knows that in winter time the wind blows wild up here and makes the old gate whistle a tune that no one else can sing. He knows that if he shouts, he'll hear his own voice echo back from the other hills and across the forest. He's always loved that echo, and the illusion it creates that he is not alone.

But now, Sven ruins his view. He's walking along the perimeter of the field and he seems to be counting his steps.

Fintan decides to ignore him and glances in the other direction where his mother-in-law stands next to Annika. Maybe it's the facelift – no, it's not just that. Annika's profile is remarkably similar to that of her mother. Fintan can see the nose (a little too big), the determined chin, the slight – but ever-present – downturn of dissatisfaction on the edge of the mouth…

Annika's mother seems to like the view.

"So, what do you think?" asks Fintan. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

There's a pause.

"Is this like Scotland?" says Annika's mother.

Fintan takes a deep breath.

"Why did you bring us here?" says Annika. "It's just a field."

Fintan thinks for a moment.

"No reason," he says. "No reason at all."

Comments by judges:

Madeleine D’Arcy’s ‘Is This Like Scotland?’ is something of a rarity among the stories submitted to New Irish Writing, a character-driven story that is not afraid to be funny. Not ha-ha funny, but rueful and ironic as it observes the blind mistakes people make in relationships and the little nuances of speech by which they give themselves away - in this case a collision of cultures as an easy-going Irishman shows his Swedish in-laws around West Cork and, in their obvious lack of enthusiasm, begins to realise the enormity of the gulf between them and nightmare of misunderstandings and incompatibility that lies ahead


Michael O'Higgins

The Migration

I stopped en route to the governor's office, to leave bread soaked in milk on the ledge under the eaves. The fledgling housemartins were feeding before I got back onto the ground. Soon, they would fly south, all the way to the mudflats on the far side of Cape Town. The idiots had wanted to stage a concert in the yard right under them. I had only succeeded in scuppering it by calling live into the Mooney Goes Wild radio programme.

In response the red tops went rabid about paedophiles having mobile phones. Questions were asked in the Dáil and the Minister announced an immediate inquiry. There were heavy-handed cell searches which yielded a rich harvest of contraband. I did a week in solitary and lost 10 days' remission. They were waiting for me in the yard and I got a hiding. The screws who were pissed off with the bad press just looked the other way.

I didn't mind. Nature had engineered these tiny creatures to fly half-way round the world to hatch their young. The notion that the cacophony of deafeningly loud rock music would make their peppercorn-sized hearts beat so fast that they would just stop was barbaric.

Their parents had been born right here in this yard, and successfully negotiated the round trip year in, year out. It was a survival of the fittest and I worried that my titbits might take the edge off them. But it had been the wettest summer and that meant fewer insects and less food.

I had asked the screw Martin Pearson to feed them, after I was gone. "Sure, birdman," he had replied. Arbour Hill was no Alcatraz, and it was corny, but the sobriquet had stuck all the same.

The governor was all smiles.

"Justice phoned. You're out at noon."

So, I was being released a whole 20 hours early before my two-year sentence expired. My solicitor had predicted I would serve every day of it. The Minister, he said, wasn't going to risk a roasting on my account.

"We want to avoid the media scrum," he added half apologetically. I was touched that he felt awkward about it. Anything that acknowledged you were a human being had that effect.

"Any plans?"

"Keep my head down. I will be sticking to the road less travelled."

"A bit of paperwork, Martin."

I was on the Sex Offenders Register. The document warned that I had to give a contact telephone number to my local garda station and notify them of my address or any plans to travel abroad. Non-compliance was a criminal offence. I signed and he placed it on my file.

"Well, Martin. I wish you well. You were never any trouble – apart from the kerfuffle you caused about the gig, that is", he said with a chuckle.

Here it wasn't what you did that counted, but how you behaved.

"Sure whatever lies ahead can't be any harder than this?"

He had a point. Even in a community where deviancy was the norm, I was the whipping boy. The sentencing judge had set the tone. He said that while the old adage, no thieves without receivers, had echoes in my crime, the connection between the purveyors of child pornography and its dissemination through the web to well-heeled and educated end users like myself was far more sinister.

He would have been far better actually trying to understand what I was about but he was only interested in sound-bites.

I had tried pointing out when I got in here that I had never actually had any sexual contact with any child, that I had confined myself – Debbie my therapist had forbidden me to say "only" – to pictures. Inmates and screws alike made it clear that they thought the distinction was purely technical. Even a lifer like Blinky Creighton, who ritually sodomised his victims till they bled, pointedly acted like he was tuppence ha'penny looking down on tuppence.

At the gate, I noticed a screw fiddling with his mobile. Instinctively, I dropped my head and put my free hand up to my face. The media had gloried in exposing an ex-cleric who was prominent in the divorce and abortion referenda debates as a hypocrite. I was puzzled. Why was it assumed that because I was a deviant I was not entitled to have views? I was snapped every step of the way, right up to the obligatory cathartic shot in handcuffs as I was leaving the Four Courts to start my sentence. A picture editor would pay plenty for an exclusive pic of me walking out the gates carrying my kit bag. Poignancy sells.

My objection to shots that portray me as a bogeyman isn't only because it robs me of any humanity. It oversimplifies. My predilection is compulsive. Inert I find my actions disgusting. Active I crave, same as any addict. Most of the old lags on the sex offenders course were only angling for early release. But I had thrown myself into it with gusto. I took Debbie at her word when she had explained I could never be cured. I was to avoid triggers, internet chat rooms, fellow travellers, and have support structures like a job, friends and counselling. Sound advice if you weren't a pariah.

Later that day I boarded the Plymouth-Santander ferry, conscious of the fact that my failure to alert the gardaí that I had left the jurisdiction meant I was a fugitive. The purser was from Waterford, working on the boat for the summer. She was studying in Plymouth University to be a criminologist. Once she heard my accent, she immediately upgraded me to my own cabin. I didn't think she would be so welcoming if she knew where I had come from, but I consoled myself with the thought my case would prick her professional interest. She directed an Indian porter to carry my bags.

"I buried my own son four months ago. A heart attack."

He set down my bag and reached into his wallet and produced a photo. He was a handsome if somewhat slight young man, early twenties, and the picture of health.

"I took that three days before he died. Born with a hole in his heart. He had a pacemaker fitted when he was 11. I didn't like smoking around the house. I had one of those air purifying machines installed that looked like a microwave attached to the wall. I blew the smoke straight into it. But then I gave up. It didn't seem right."

He spoke staccato in a way that demanded attention. I said nothing.

"I would go back on them in the morning if I got sick."

"It is a hard thing for a parent to bury a child."

"It's only half time," he announced matter-of-factly. "My wife has cancer."

"When it rains it pours."

He nodded vigorously. "We are unhappily married. We were going to separate but this has knocked us back."

It was a strange thing to say, even for a thinker as lateral as himself, but I understood. The devil you know had kept me in holy orders long after I had lost the faith.

I tipped him a fiver.

"Thanks" he said, just a little too profusely. Was it a testament to the power of money, or the human spirit, that he could have his mood so easily lifted, if even briefly, by an extra few quid? My discomfort also stemmed from the fact that I felt better that I had met someone who had a worse deal than mine.

The boat was packed with families going on holidays. Queuing in the self-service restaurant was just like prison, though. Once inmates collected their food, they returned to their cells and ate alone behind closed doors. I come from a large family. In boarding school, the seminary and, later, the presbytery, I had always been accustomed to the banter that went with communal dining. It was one of the aspects of prison for which I was least prepared.

Tonight, though, I felt overwhelmed and ate alone in my cabin.

Afterwards, I went out on deck for some air. There was thick cloud cover. Beyond the reach of the ship's lights, the sky and sea were inky black. It was soothing to look at the ship's wash.

A bird emerged out of the darkness and flew by the side of the ship. Midships, he paused, flightless, wings flapping furiously, a sort of aerial version of running to stand still. As the stern of the ship drew level, he flew away again into the dark. He reappeared again, and again the flight pattern repeated. Sometimes level with the upper deck, others so close to the water he looked more like a flying fish. A couple of times he disappeared and, just when I was sure that he was gone, he came racing back into the light again.

His movements were so symmetric they must surely have a meaning, I thought. What was he doing hundreds of miles from land surrounded only by blackness? The thought of being out here alone terrified me. Soon the housemartins would migrate across this very stretch of water. They had great heart. It was hard to believe that so much energy could be crammed into such a tiny frame, that it could keep flapping its wings, for days if necessary, without food or rest.

It was raining in Santander, what you would call a soft day back home. I walked to the railway station and boarded the first train. The coaches were elegant in an old-fashioned way but the ride was a bit like driving on a flat tyre. The lush, verdant vegetation of the mountainous hills gave way to fields full of sunflowers and wheat bleached lighter by the sun than our own. Cream- and ochre-coloured pueblos dotted the landscape, the vista blighted by high rises with their postage stamp-sized balconies shaded by faded racing-green canopies.

I translated a headline in El Pais belonging to the passenger opposite: COMMISSION CONSIDERS CHEMICAL CASTRATION LAW FOR PAEDOS. The judge had described the sample of the several thousand pictures on my laptop that he had viewed as "sweet innocent children coerced by evil forces into a startling array of depraved sexual acts for the gratification of sick minds." I had lovingly chronicled, catalogued and cross-referenced them into folders and sub-folders under headings of sex (overwhelmingly girls), age (mostly pre-pubescent) ethnicity, etc. Maybe I could present myself to Commission as a guinea pig.

I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. But the hum of conversation, the beat and rhythm of the words with their carefully accentuated stress as regular as any iambic pentameter verse, distracted me.

The train stopped in Valladolid. I checked into a hotel next door to the station. Spartan and clean, it had a good rate. I had no money worries, for now, but had nothing against value.

Va-La-Dol-Id: It had an onomatopoeic quality, a sound that conveyed it was a dark place of a thousand sorrows. I followed a few stragglers into a church. All around, there were altars with tall columns, embossed with ornate gilded designs. It was more Aztec than Christian. As with Latin, the service sounded noble, but to me it was still an empty formula.

I thought the Plaza Mayor vastly superior to its counterpart in Madrid. Isobel and Ferdinand, Spain's most powerful rulers, met clandestinely in this city. They fell in love and married here. Miguel Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, settled briefly until his entire household was jailed when someone got stabbed. I stood dead centre stupefied by its grandeur, intimidated by its emptiness, and felt more alone than I ever had in prison.

I sat outside to eat. The pulpo (octopus), navages (razor fish) and sepia (cuttlefish) were too sophisticated for my palate. I ate white fish served tepid, without greens, cooked in oil that would make my stools mushy.

Back at the hotel, I tried to nap but a steady stream of Vespas buzzing up and down the street like angry hornets made sleep impossible. It was hard to believe it was only yesterday that I was released. This was different to the way jail time crawled but time had definitely slowed up.

I stood at the window. I spied in the living-room of an apartment across the courtyard a girl sitting on the floor painting her hands and toenails. Her splayed hands were small and stubby, child-like. Her friend sat on a chair a few feet away.

They sipped red wine, talked animatedly and smoked cigarettes. There was a pop video on the TV and the images flickered rapidly. Toenail Painter began moving her arms and upper torso. It was like watching a paraplegic dance.

She got up and walked behind her friend. She brushed out her hair, the shiny black that Mediterranean women have. Her orange dress perfectly complemented her olive skin. Toenail Painter draped her arms around Orange Dress's neck, resting them on her cleavage, and whispered something into her ear, and then rocked her gently. They laughed giddily.

The action was intimate and sensuous.

I had valued my own privacy long before the police broke down my front door, took away my hard drive, and bared my soul to the world. But this did not feel intrusive. It felt forbidden, sure, and the excitement was intensified by the fact that they did not know I was there.

At any moment, one of them might look up; she would pull the curtain, disgusted, and shake her fist, or even shout that I was a pervertido. And then perhaps call Guardia Civil? The media back home would have another field day.

I hastily stepped back into the shadows.

I was too long in the tooth to believe in fresh starts. The alienation which had caused me to exit the priesthood, sever the network which went with it, and had culminated in endless hours in internet chat rooms, could only increase here; even with a good smattering of Spanish, I would never get the social and cultural nuances which at home were second nature. Life among ex-pats would be unbearable. For just a moment, I thought of going back to Dublin. But what was the point? Anyone who counted knew.

Comments by judges:

Michael O’Higgins’ The Migration daringly puts the reader inside the mind of an ex-cleric coming out of prison after serving time for downloading child pornography on the internet. The story makes the rationale for his behaviour and his belief that he has been made a whipping boy seem disturbingly understandable, so that when he breaks his parole and slips away to Spain seeking anonymity you feel dread that as he steps back into the shadows he will be watching his steps forever - and failing forever. ‘The Migration’ makes brilliant use of the device of the unreliable narrator to undermine complacency about sexual deviancy and explore the nature of an abuser.