Professor Ciarán Benson retires as Chairman of Poetry Ireland

28th June 2024

Professor Ciarán Benson retires as Chairman

The Board of Poetry Ireland/ Éigse Éireann today announced that Professor Ciarán Benson is retiring as Chair after ten years at the helm.  Paying tribute to Professor Benson, fellow directors said that his work as Chair “offered witness, experience, and a pathway to action - always with the objective of improving access, building recognition and creating opportunities for artists. He brought a clear lens to focus on the mission and objectives of Poetry Ireland/ Éigse Éireann, on the lived reality of the poetry community, and on its ecology, which has been crucial to its short and long-term survival. Under Ciarán’s stewardship, Poetry Ireland/ Éigse Éireann has taken immense strides during the last decade, and we will feel the benefit of his work and guidance for generations to come.”

Ciarán in announcing his retirement, said  “now that we have successfully turned the sod on No 11 Parnell Square,  I have been reflecting on where we in Poetry Ireland/ Éigse Éireann have arrived, and with the wonderful service of fellow directors over the years, and the sterling work of our executives over many years, I am confident that Poetry Ireland faces a bright and stable future. I have felt privileged to work with fellow and former directors, executives and with the team at Poetry Ireland and to feel welcomed as part of the vibrant and growing community of poets, across the island of Ireland." 

Liz Kelly, CEO of Poetry Ireland/ Éigse Éireann, said “Ciarán’s chairmanship of Poetry Ireland over ten years was a period of extraordinary growth and accomplishment. During the last decade Ciarán worked closely with then Director Maureen Kennelly to identify a permanent home for Poetry Ireland, Poetry Ireland House/ Árus Éigse Éireann, at Number 11 Parnell Square, where work has commenced to transform the building into an all Ireland centre for poetry comparable to those in major cities including Edinburgh, New York, Berlin and Paris. His commitment to inclusivity and accessibility is a benchmark against which we will continue to measure and develop our work as the major resource organisation for poetry on this island.  We extend our sincere thanks to Ciarán for his exceptional leadership and support and wish him well for the future.” 

The board appointed John O'Donnell SC to the chair and Maria McManus to a new role as deputy chair. 

John O’Donnell

John O’Donnell is a poet and senior counsel. His work has been published and broadcast widely in Ireland and abroad. Awards include the Irish National Poetry Prize, the Ireland Funds Prize, and Hennessy Awards for Poetry and Fiction. His collection of short stories ‘Almost the Same Blue‘ (Doire Press) was nominated in the Irish Times as one of the Best Fiction Debuts, and one of the Books of The Year in the Sunday Independent. ‘Americans Anonymous’ (Hi Tone Books), a pictorial and poetic road trip across America with photographs by Barry Delaney, is his latest poetry collection. 

Maria McManus

Maria is a poet.  Her most recent collection is Available Light, (Arlen House).  Librettos include Wretches, Ellipses and Tierra Sallada.  Poetry, dance & film collaborations are BIND, EPILOGUE, DUST and TURF.  Essays are published in Impermanence (Centre Culturel Irlandais/ No Alibis), The New Frontier (New Island) and The Irish Times.  She founded Quotidian – Word on the Street (; it includes the Poetry Jukebox project. She is a member of Irish PEN.