Aosdána was established in 1981 by the Arts Council of Ireland to honour artists from various disciplines whose work has made an outstanding contribution to Irish life. In all there are 244 artists currently members of Aosdána. To become a member of Aosdána, an artist must be elected by his or her peers. Donegal is proud and honoured to have nine Donegal born or resident members of the prestigious Assembly, representing the arts through literature, music and the visual arts. Indeed, we have one member, Brian Friel, who has the additional honour of being elected Saoi, an honour accorded to only seven members of the general assembly.
In the world of writing Donegal lays claim to Brian Friel, Frank McGuinness, Frank Harvey, Cathal Ó Searcaigh, Mathew Sweeney and Moya Cannon. These people have contributed both nationally and globally to literature in the disciplines of poetry and drama, written in both English and the Irish language.
Friel and McGuinness have dominated European drama for decades with their adaptations of Chekhov and Ibsen and their own work which examines and questions the national psyche. Both men excel in other genres of short-story writing and poetry.
In the field of poetry, Cathal O Searcaigh, Francis Harvey, Moya Cannon and Mathew Sweeney have contributed to Irish poetry over many decades. Ó Searcaigh, who writes poetry primarily in the Irish language, has been translated into many languages. Sweeney is currently writer-in-residence at UCC and apart from his poetic output has written successful stories for children and edited literary anthologies. Cannon, who was born in Dunfanaghy has had some of her poetry set to music working closely with both classical and traditional practitioners. Francis Harvey, living in Ballyshannon for many decades, uses the Donegal landscape to inform his work.
Tommy Peoples, regarded as one of the major figures in the Traditional Irish Music scene, was born in St. Johnston. His skill as a traditional fiddler has led to such prestigious collaborations with The Bothy Band and many of the leading figures of the Irish Traditional Music world. In the world of contemporary music John McLachlan is a leading figure in composition, and has made his home on the Inishowen Peninsula for the last number of years. Apart from his successful career in music, he is a broadcaster on Lyric FM and a globally successful writer on music.
Frances Hegarty, who was born in Teelin, is a visual artist whose work spans three decades. Her interest lies in exploring national and cultural identity through video, audio, photography, drawings and installation. In 1997 she won the first Nissan Art Project and has gone on to do commissions for cities throughout Ireland and the UK.
To find out more about these artists click on the link below.