The Arts Council and Aosdána express regret at the passing of writer and Aosdána member Ulick O’Connor

Ulick O’ Connor passes away 7 October 2019, age 91.

Arts Council Chair Professor Kevin Rafter said

“Ireland has suffered an acute loss with the passing of Ulick O’Connor. A man of many gifts – writing across history, drama, prose, criticism and poetry – he made an enormous contribution to the country’s intellectual and cultural life. He was a popular, vigorous and brave writer, who both demonstrated and understood the importance of the voice of the artist in political and cultural debate. He will be deeply missed.”

Born in Dublin in 1928, Ulick O’Connor studied at University College Dublin and in New Orleans, and practiced as a barrister for some years before becoming a full-time writer.

His plays include The Dream Box (1972), The Dark Lovers (1975), The Emperor’s Envoy (1976), The Grand Inquisitor (1977), Submarine (1977), Deirdre (1977), The Oval Machine (an adaptation of the Hippolytus myth, 1986), Joycity (1989) and A Trinity of Two (1988), a play about Oscar Wilde and Edward Carson, was translated by Raymond Gerome as Deux de la Trinité in 1990.

His books of poetry include Lifestyles (1973), Three Noh Plays (1980), All Things Counter (1986) and One is Animate (1990), and a translation of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, with an introduction by Michel Déon of the Académie Française.

Perhaps his most original contribution to the theatre has been through plays written in the Noh form. These include Submarine (1977) and Deirdre (1977) which were performed in the Abbey Theatre and later in New York. Under the auspices of the Japanese cultural foundation he spent some time in Japan examining aspects of the Noh style there.

His biographies of Oliver St. John Gogarty (Jonathan Cape, 1964) and Brendan Behan (Hamish Hamilton, 1970) have stayed in print since they were published. He has written several works of criticism and history, including A Terrible Beauty Is Born (1975), A History of Ireland from 1912 to 1922 (since published under different names); Celtic Dawn (1984), on the Irish literary renaissance; and Biographers and the Art of Biography, 1991. Irish Tales and Sagas was published in 1981, with illustrations by Pauline Bewick. His diaries were published in 2000, and he was working on a second volume.

In 1985 he received the Irish-American Institute’s Literary Award. Ulick O’Connor was elected to Aosdána in 1984.