Cathaoirleach of Leitrim County Council, Cllr. Paddy O'Rourke presenting the 2021 John McGahern Award to Sonya Gildea.



As part of the Iron Mountain Literature Festival and with the support of the McGahern Estate Leitrim County Council developed the John McGahern Award to encourage the development of emerging Irish writers and to pay tribute to the exceptional contribution of John McGahern to literature, and to Leitrim. The recipient of the award receives a prize of €2,500.

The recipient of the John McGahern Award for 2021 is Dublin based writer Sonya Gildea.

Sonya Gildea holds an MA, Creative Writing from University College Dublin. She was winner of the Cúirt International New Writer’s Fiction Award in 2015 and winner of an Ireland Chair of Poetry (post-grad) Student Award for 2020. In 2021 Sonya was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions series and was awarded an Artist Literature Bursary Award and Agility Award from the Arts Council, and a Creative Ireland Artist Literature Bursary Award from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. She has published in Crannóg literary magazine; The Irish Times; The Stinging Fly; the commemorative anthology Hold Open the Door (UCD & Chicago Press, 2020); The Cormorant Broadsheet and The Night Heron Barks; with work forthcoming in The Maynard and the Poetry Ireland Introductions Anthology. She is currently completing the prose short story collection, The Switching Yard. She is writing a 1st poetry collection 500 Seconds and completing the chapbook with river illustrations, The Nine River Beats of Owenea set in Glenties, Co. Donegal. She is exploring, researching and developing a multi-disciplinary word project & installation, Rewriting the Constitution.

Previous John McGahern Award recipients

2016 - Phil Kearney Byrne

2017 - Anne Griffin

2018 - Sean Tanner

2019 - Zoë Comyns

2020 - Niamh Mac Cabe

2021 - Sonya Gildea

John McGahern is one of Ireland’s most respected and celebrated authors. His fiction is critically acclaimed internationally, has been translated into many languages and has appeared in many anthologies. He was a member of Aosdána and won numerous awards, including the Irish-American Foundation Award, the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, and the Prix Etranger Ecureuil. He taught at universities in Ireland, England, the USA and Canada. Amongst Women, which won both the GPA and Irish Times Award, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and made into a BBC television series.