Submissions now welcomed for £5,000 John McGahern Annual Book Prize

The University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies is seeking submissions to the £5,000 John McGahern Book Prize, for the best debut novel or short story collection by an Irish writer or writer resident in Ireland.

The 2021 John McGahern Annual Book Prize will be awarded for fiction published between 1 January and 31 December 2021, from across all genres of adult fiction.

The submitted entries will be considered by a judging panel consisting of celebrated Irish author and University of Liverpool Chancellor, Colm Tóibín alongside University of Liverpool Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Janet Beer; the Institute of Irish Studies’ Professor Frank Shovlin, editor of The Letters of John McGahern (Faber & Faber) and Dr Eleanor Lybeck, lecturer in literature based between the Institute of Irish Studies and the Department of English at the University of Liverpool.

Professor of Irish literature in English, Frank Shovlin said: “We at the Institute are delighted to continue this initiative, launched in 2019, with the endorsement of John McGahern’s literary estate.

“The prize, named after one of Ireland’s greatest fiction writers, is designed to encourage, reward and promote new Irish writing.

“We look forward to judging what will undoubtedly be a strong field of entries and hopefully finding a writer who will continue in that great tradition of Irish fiction of which McGahern was such a vital part.”

The prize is open to any Irish writer, or writer resident in Ireland for more than five years, with the winner being announced in Liverpool in the summer of 2022.

The inaugural John McGahern Prize was awarded to Adrian Duncan for his novel Loves Notes from a German Building Site (The Lilliput Press). The winner of the 2020 John McGahern Prize was Hilary Fannin for The Weight of Love (Stinging Fly/Doubleday).

John McGahern, who was born in Dublin in 1934 and brought up in the West of Ireland, is the author of six highly acclaimed novels and four collections of short stories, a play, an autobiography and a number of essays.

His novel Amongst Women – winner of both the GPA and Irish Times Award – was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and made into a four-part BBC television series.

His final book, Memoir, was published in 2005. John McGahern died in 2006.

The University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies was established in 1988 and remains the only one of its kind in Great Britain. The Prince of Wales and President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins are joint patrons of the Institute, symbolising the significant role it plays in the cultural, political and cultural life of these islands.

For further information, please go to or contact Prof Shovlin by emailing