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Aosdána is an Irish association of Artists. It was created in 1981 on the initiative of a group of writers and with support from the Arts Council of Ireland
Arts Council of Ireland
The Arts Council of Ireland was founded in 1951 by the Government of Ireland to encourage interest in Irish art and channel to funding from the state to Irish artists and arts organisations...

. Membership, which is by invitation from current members, is limited to 250 individuals; before 2005 it was limited to 200. Its governing body is called the Toscaireacht.


Some members of Aosdána receive a stipend, called the Cnuas (kn̪uəsˠ lit. "collect, store" - references a gift of financial aid put aside for the purpose of support), from the Arts Council of Ireland. This stipend is intended to allow recipients to work full time at their art. The value of the Cnuas in 2010 is €17,180.

The title of Saoi
Saoi , is the highest honour that members of Aosdána, an association of people in Ireland who have achieved distinction in the arts, can bestow upon a fellow member...

 (lit. "wise one") is the highest honour that members of Aosdána can bestow upon a fellow member. No more than seven living members can be so honoured at one time.
  • Seóirse Bodley
    Seóirse Bodley
    Seóirse Bodley is an Irish composer and former associate professor of music at University College Dublin . He has been Saoi of Aosdána since 2008.-Biography:...

  • Brian Friel
    Brian Friel
    Brian Friel is an Irish dramatist, author and director of the Field Day Theatre Company. He is considered to be the greatest living English-language dramatist, hailed by the English-speaking world as an "Irish Chekhov" and "the universally accented voice of Ireland"...

  • Patrick Scott
    Patrick Scott
    Patrick Scott is an Irish artist.Patrick Scott had his first exhibition in 1944, but trained as an architect and did not become a full time artist until 1960. He worked for fifteen years for the Irish architect Michael Scott, assisting, for example, in the design of Busáras, the central bus...

  • Camille Souter
    Camille Souter
    Camille Souter, born Betty Pamela Holmes, is a painter. Though born in Northampton, England, in 1929, she was raised in Ireland. She was elected Saoi of Aosdána in 2008....


Aosdána was originally set up on the suggestion of writer Anthony Cronin
Anthony Cronin
Anthony Cronin is an Irish poet. He received the Marten Toonder Award for his contribution to Irish literature....

, by Taoiseach
The Taoiseach is the head of government or prime minister of Ireland. The Taoiseach is appointed by the President upon the nomination of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas , and must, in order to remain in office, retain the support of a majority in the Dáil.The current Taoiseach is...

Charles Haughey
Charles Haughey
Charles James "Charlie" Haughey was Taoiseach of Ireland, serving three terms in office . He was also the fourth leader of Fianna Fáil...

, well-known for his support for the Arts, although Fintan O'Toole
Fintan O'Toole
Fintan O'Toole is a columnist, assistant editor and drama critic for The Irish Times. He has written for The Irish Times since 1988 and was drama critic for the New York Daily News from 1997 to 2001. He is a literary critic, historical writer and political commentator, with generally left-wing views...

 has argued that this also served to deflect criticism of Haughey's political actions. Many artists feel that the corruption that surrounded Haughey and his Fianna Fáil
Fianna Fáil
Fianna Fáil – The Republican Party , more commonly known as Fianna Fáil is a centrist political party in the Republic of Ireland, founded on 23 March 1926. Fianna Fáil's name is traditionally translated into English as Soldiers of Destiny, although a more accurate rendition would be Warriors of Fál...

 party compromises the institution.


The process of induction relies entirely on members proposing new members. Applications by artist themselves are not allowed. Many artists feel that membership of a state-sponsored organisation might compromise them as artists. In an Irish Times article in 2001, several artists who were not members were asked for comments. Poet Thomas Kinsella
Thomas Kinsella
Thomas Kinsella is an Irish poet, translator, editor, and publisher.-Early life and work:Kinsella was born in Lucan, County Dublin. He spent much of his childhood with relatives in rural Ireland. He was educated in the Irish language at the Model School, Inchicore and the O'Connell Christian...

 said that on looking over the membership he felt his standards were higher. Brendan Kennelly
Brendan Kennelly
Brendan Kennelly is a popular Irish poet and novelist. He was Professor of Modern Literature at Trinity College Dublin until 2005. He is now retired and occasionally tours the USA as university lecturer.-Early life:...

 said: "On an unconscious or subconscious level I might feel compromised [by membership]." Painter Hughie O'Donoghue
Hughie O'Donoghue
Hughie O'Donoghue is a British painter born in Manchester..-Biography:Hughie O'Donoghue was born in 1953 in the city of Manchester in northern England. His father, Daniel O'Donoghue, was also born in Manchester, to Irish parents, and was a railway company clerk in the city...

 said he would decline membership if asked because "the thing I need most as an artist is independence."

Poet Eavan Boland
Eavan Boland
-Biography:Boland's father, Frederick Boland, was a career diplomat and her mother, Frances Kelly, was a noted post-expressionist painter. She was born in Dublin in 1944. At the age of six, Boland's father was appointed Irish Ambassador to the United Kingdom; the family followed him to London,...

 said: "I was not then, nor am I now, comfortable with the idea of belonging to something where there are exemptions involved," although she added that she would "hate to see it disappear". Playwright Hugh Leonard
Hugh Leonard
Hugh Leonard was an Irish dramatist, television writer and essayist. In a career that spanned 50 years, Leonard wrote more than 18 plays, two volumes of essays and two autobiographies, one novel and numerous screenplays and teleplays, as well as writing a regular newspaper column.-Life and...

 said: "I am not a member by choice. And if I did ask to get in they wouldn't let me. I don't like the idea of authors en masse ... and there are so many people in Aosdána of whom I have never heard. The whole thing seems unforgivably political ... That thing of exclusivity and elitism I despise."

New members

Playwright Conor McPherson, poet Vona Groarke, composers Gráinne Mulvey
Gráinne Mulvey
Gráinne Mulvey is an Irish composer.-Biography:She studied with Eric Sweeney at Waterford Regional Technical College, Hormoz Farhat at Trinity College Dublin and Agustín Fernández at Queen's University, Belfast. In 1999 she gained a DPhil in Composition at the University of York under Nicola LeFanu...

 and Kevin Volans
Kevin Volans
Kevin Volans is a composer associated with the post-minimalist movement in contemporary composition. He was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on July 6, 1949, and even though he has spent most of his life outside his native country, is the best known South African composer active today.In...

, and architects Yvonne Farrell and Sheila O'Donnell were among seven new members elected 14 April 2010.


Journalist Bruce Arnold, chief critic of the Irish Independent
Irish Independent
The Irish Independent is Ireland's largest-selling daily newspaper that is published in both compact and broadsheet formats. It is the flagship publication of Independent News & Media.-History:...

, argued that "Writing, for example, is not really served at all by the archaic institution for conferring honours on artists, known as Aosdána, which really does little to help the other arts either."

The poet Pearse Hutchinson
Pearse Hutchinson
Pearse Hutchinson is an Irish poet, broadcaster and translator.-Childhood and education:Pearse Hutchinson was born in Glasgow. His father, Harry Hutchinson, a Scottish printer whose own father had left Dublin to find work in Scotland, was Sinn Féin treasurer in Glasgow and was interned in Frongoch...

, on the other hand, a member of Aosdána, has described it as "a miracle and a godsend" that allowed him to continue writing at a time when he might have had to give up. Composer Roger Doyle has also spoken about the difference it made: "I was elected to Aosdána in 1986. This gave me a small stipend from the Government each year, which enabled me to devote all my time to composing. This changed my life for the better and I have composed non-stop since then."

In March 2007, the Scottish Government announced the setting up of an arts group modelled on Aosdána.

The Toscaireacht

The Toscaireacht is a committee of ten members, called Toscairí, of the Aosdána. It meets several times a year to deal with the administration and external relations of Aosdána, reports to every General Assembly, which meets once a year, and sets its Agenda. When new members of Aosdána are proposed, the Toscairí have the task of verifying that the nomination process has been complied with, and also that the candidate is willing to accept membership, before the next stage of election is begun.

In 2004, the Toscaireacht adopted a motion which was later successfully proposed to the General Assembly, that the categories of Aosdána's membership be extended to include architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

s and choreographers
Choreography is the art of designing sequences of movements in which motion, form, or both are specified. Choreography may also refer to the design itself, which is sometimes expressed by means of dance notation. The word choreography literally means "dance-writing" from the Greek words "χορεία" ...

 and that the status of film makers as artists in their own right should be endorsed.


Toscairí are elected to the Toscaireacht by the members of Aosdána for two years at a time. All members of Aosdána are eligible for election, and nominations must be made in writing by three members. The electoral process is in two stages. First, within each of Aosdána's three disciplines (Music, Literature, and Visual Arts), the two nominees with the highest number of votes are elected: this guarantees a minimum of two Toscairí from each of the disciplines. Next, the remaining four places are filled by the remaining nominees from any discipline who have the highest number of votes.


The procedure at meetings is laid down in the Toscaireacht's Standing Orders. Minutes of its meetings appear on Aosdána's web site.

Current Toscairí

  • Anthony Cronin
    Anthony Cronin
    Anthony Cronin is an Irish poet. He received the Marten Toonder Award for his contribution to Irish literature....

     (Literature), poet
  • Seoirse Bodley
    Seóirse Bodley
    Seóirse Bodley is an Irish composer and former associate professor of music at University College Dublin . He has been Saoi of Aosdána since 2008.-Biography:...

  • Brian Maguire (Visual Arts)
  • Dermot Healy
    Dermot Healy
    Dermot Healy is an Irish novelist, playwright, and poet. He has won the Hennessy Award , the Tom Gallon Award , and the Encore Award...

     (Literature), novelist, playwright, and poet
  • Mary Fitzgerald
    Mary Fitzgerald
    Mary Fitzgerald is a television writer for The Singles Table, American Body Shop and most notably the HBO sitcom, Lucky Louie.-External links:...

     (Visual Arts)
  • Mannix Flynn
    Mannix Flynn
    Gerard Mannix Flynn, sometimes written only as Mannix Flynn, is an Irish writer, playwright, actor and politician. He was born in Dublin in May 1957. He was sent to St Joseph's Industrial School in Letterfrack aged eleven for eighteen months. He was subjected to sexual and physical abuse there....

  • Alice Hanratty
    Alice Hanratty
    Alice Hanratty is an Irish artist who specialises in printmaking. She studied painting and printmaking at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, and the Hornsey College of Art, London...

     (Visual Arts), painter and printmaker
  • Samuel Walsh
    Samuel Walsh
    Samuel Walsh was born in London, England to Irish parents in 1951; his mother from Limerick and his father from Ennis. He was educated in London and Limerick. He lived in Limerick from 1968 to 1990 and he now lives and works in Co...

     (Visual Arts), painter
  • Macdara Woods
    Macdara Woods
    Macdara Woods is an Irish poet born in Dublin.-Life:Macdara Woods is married to the poet Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, they have an adult son, Niall, a musician. Woods currently lives in Dublin and Umbria...

     (Literature), poet
  • Eibhlís Farrell
    Eibhlis Farrell
    -Life:Eibhlis Farrell was born in Rostrevor in County Down, Northern Ireland. She began writing music at an early age and studied at Queen's University, Belfast, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Music, and with Raymond Warren at Bristol University, graduating with a Masters in composition...


Past Toscairí

Toscairí in past years include:
  • 1999-2002: Roger Doyle, John Kinsella, Gene Lambert
    Gene Lambert
    Eugene Marion Lambert was a pitcher in Major League Baseball. He played for the Philadelphia Phillies. He served in the military during World War II from 1943 to 1945.-External links:...

    , David Shaw Smith, Paula Meehan
    Paula Meehan
    Paula Meehan is an Irish poet and playwright. Born in Dublin in 1955, Meehan studied at Trinity College, Dublin,and at Eastern Washington University.-Biography:...

    , and Raymond Deane
    Raymond Deane
    Raymond Deane is an Irish composer of classical music.-Biography:He was brought up on Achill Island and has lived in Dublin, Basel, Cologne, Berlin, Oldenburg, Paris and Fuerth....

    , as well as Alice Hanratty, Anthony Cronin, Dermot Healy, and Brian Maguire.
  • 2002-2004: Seóirse Bodley
    Seóirse Bodley
    Seóirse Bodley is an Irish composer and former associate professor of music at University College Dublin . He has been Saoi of Aosdána since 2008.-Biography:...

    , Maud Cotter, Theo Dorgan
    Theo Dorgan
    Theo Dorgan is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer. He currently lives in Dublin.- Career :Dorgan's poetry collections are The Ordinary House of Love ; Rosa Mundi; and Sappho’s Daughter...

    , Paul Durcan
    Paul Durcan
    Paul Durcan is a contemporary Irish poet.-Early life:Durcan grew up in Dublin and in Turlough, County Mayo. His father, John, was a barrister and circuit court judge; father and son had a difficult and formal relationship. Durcan enjoyed a warmer and more natural relationship with his mother,...

    , Fergus Johnston
    Fergus Johnston
    Fergus Johnston is an Irish composer and member of Aosdána. He studied for both a degree in music and a Master's Degree in Music and Media Technology at Trinity College Dublin and has a PhD in composition from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth...

    , Michael Kane
    Michael Kane
    Michael Kane may refer to:* Michael Kane , American soccer player* Michael F. Kane , Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives* Michael Kane , Canadian actor.-See also:...

    , and Eric Sweeney, as well as Alice Hanratty and Brian Maguire.

Fairytale of Kathmandu controversy

In the affair of Cathal Ó Searcaigh
Cathal Ó Searcaigh
Cathal Ó Searcaigh is an Irish poet who writes in the Irish language .Ó Searcaigh was born in Gort a' Choirce, a town in the Gaeltacht region of Donegal, and lives at the foot of Mount Errigal...

 and the Fairytale of Kathmandu controversy, Gerard Mannix Flynn proposed in the Toscaireacht that a motion be put on the agenda for the General Assembly of Aosdána which echoed concerns about Aosdana's position on allegations about the exploitation of vulnerable young people. This would endorse the Arts Council booklet Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children and Young People in the Arts Sector and call on artists to endorse its principles individually. When he was asked to withdraw this motion, Flynn refused and resigned from the Toscaireacht.

Francis Stuart controversy

In 1996 Francis Stuart
Francis Stuart
Henry Francis Montgomery Stuart was an Irish writer. His novels have been described as having a thrusting modernist iconoclasm. Awarded the highest artistic accolade in Ireland before his death in 2000, his unwillingness to take a clear moral stance with regard to his years spent in Nazi...

 was elected a Saoi of Aosdána and Máire Mhac an tSaoi
Máire Mhac an tSaoi
-Background:Mhac an tSaoi was born as Máire MacEntee in Dublin in 1922. Her father, Seán MacEntee, a native of Belfast, was a founding member of Fianna Fáil, a long-serving TD and Tánaiste in the Dáil and a participant in the Easter Rising of 1916. Her mother, County Tipperary-born Margaret Browne...

 objected strongly, citing his behaviour during the war when he made propaganda broadcasts for the Nazis and accusing him of antisemitism. Eventually, she resigned from Aosdána, forsaking its financial support.
Kevin Myers
Kevin Myers
Kevin Myers is an Irish journalist and writer. He writes for the Irish Independent and is a former contributor to The Irish Times, where he wrote the "An Irishman's Diary" opinion column several times weekly...

 attacked Stuart as a Nazi sympathiser; Stuart sued and the case was settled out of court.

Freedom of Speech controversy

In September 2010, Aosdána was strongly criticised by the Irish Independent
Irish Independent
The Irish Independent is Ireland's largest-selling daily newspaper that is published in both compact and broadsheet formats. It is the flagship publication of Independent News & Media.-History:...

 for calling for the silencing of a promotion of a book by former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

Freedom of Speech controversy

In September 2010, Aosdána was strongly criticised by Irish Independent columnist Ian O'Doherty for calling for the silencing of a promotion of a book by former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.[22] Two members expressed opposition to Blair's visit to Dublin to promote his memoirs, but no such motion was passed by the organisation. See also
  • Members of Aosdána