Media Library

News Releases

Statement by President Higgins on the death of Thomas Kilroy

Date: Mon 11th Dec, 2023 | 14:47

"It is with sadness that Sabina and I have I learned of the death of the noted playwright and Aosdána member Thomas Kilroy.  

Thomas will be remembered as one of the most significant of a generation of playwrights that included Brian Friel, Tom Murphy and so many others.  It was that generation who modernised Irish theatre through his work with the Abbey Theatre, and as a ground-breaking founder with visionaries such as Stephen Rea, of Field Day Theatre Company. It is important too that Thomas is remembered as a fine novelist, with his book ‘The Big Chapel’, rigorously disciplined in its crafting, and courageous in its theme, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Thomas Kilroy’s plays, both in his original work and in his adaptations, were unafraid to cross boundaries, while examining social issues, which would not have been widely considered for audiences in Irish theatre previously.  An example perhaps is “The Death and Resurrection of Mr. Roche” one of the Irish plays to have a gay central character.

In his later work and adaptations, his paralleling of the decline of the Irish landed class with the Russian novel and work such as that of Chekhov was a particularly insightful contribution.

A novelist or colleague and a valued one, at UCG Thomas made a significant contribution through his teaching and critical work, including his over ten years as Professor of English at University College Galway from 1978 to 1989.

In more recent years, in addition to his ongoing writing, Thomas’ recollections of his own parents’ roles in the War of Independence, and the early years of the new State were welcome additions to the reflections made by so many over the last decade.

Thomas Kilroy was a close friend of Sabina and mine over the years, may we extend our deepest condolences to Julia, his family, friends, neighbours and colleagues.

Suimhneas síoraí da anam uasal."