Eamon Sweeney

Life
Author of Waiting for the Healer (1996), first novel, story of drugs and murder in small-town Ireland, winner of Raconteur Competition; also The Photograph (2000), fictional study of Irish nationalism; also, There’s Only One Red Army (2002), about Manchester United.

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Works
Waiting for the Healer
(Picador 1996), 308pp.; There’s Only One Red Army (New Island Books 1997); The Photograph (London: Picador 2000), 374pp.; There’s Only One Red Army (Dublin: New Island Press 2002), 253pp. [i.e., Manchester United].

Reviews incl. Eamonn Sweeney, ‘Busted flush?’ [Eamonn Sweeney is disappointed with Sebastian Barry’s latest, Annie Dunne]’, in The Guardian (Sat., 29 June 2002) [supra].

Criticism
John Dunne, review of Waiting for the Healer, in Books Ireland (May 1997), pp.123-24; Peter Cunningham, review of Waiting for the Healer, in The Irish Times (15 March 1997). See further reviews in Commentary [infra].

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Commentary
C. L. Dallat, review of Waiting for the Healer (1996), in Times Literary Supplement, 4 April, 1997; ‘a new Ireland somewhere between Roddy Doyle and Quentin Tarentino’; plot follows Paul Kelly, the manager of a Brixton pub whose wife has died on his return to Ireland with his small daughter following the murder of his brother, winning of Raconteur Competition, judged by Ruth Rendell; reviewed by.

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Tom Humphries, review of There’s Only one Red Army, in Irish Times (25 Oct. 1997), [q.p.], notes the book's cover-note from Patrick McCabe, who is also mentioned inside the covers; positive points incl. affection for Sligo Rovers; the unfussy style that made Waiting for the Healer such a convincing début; ‘where football exists as a window to the world of Sweeney’s beery father the prose and passion is most convincing. There is something about … his family keeping touch with each other through the medium of Rovers results which speaks volumes abot the stifling reticence which cripples many Irish relationahsip and the lonely rituals of the emigrant; wanders off it literary worldview discourses … struggles for original prose to describe repetitious choreography of soccer action … midweek fixture stuff .. and a stern talking to at half-time.’

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Arminta Wallace, review of The Photograph (Picador), in The Irish Times (4 Aug. 2001) [Weekend], relates that the novel departs from a photo of four men, among the cast a taoiseach with a pipe and another who made a fortune out of ballrooms, and Father Gerry Lee, the paedophile priest whose missing extradition warrant brings down the government - the characters corresponding to actual personages such as Jack Lynch and Fr. Gerry Smyth.

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John Kenny, reviewing of The Photograph (Picador), in Times Literary Supplement (2 June 2000), calls Sweeney ‘one of a younger group of Irish novelists who, inter alia, are dedicated to documenting in broadly dirty-realist mode, the newer ills of a society that has experienced accelerated change’; chars. incl. Henry Caslin (Rathbawn businessman and later Taoiseach), Jimmy Mimnagh (convert homosexual, alcoholic, and Caslin’s right hand man), Fr. Gerry Lee (inveterate paedophile with IRA connections), and McKeon, hounded journalist keeping an eye on all three; connected by photograph taken in one of Henry’s ballrooms; parellels to Irish personages Albert Reynolds, Brendan Smyth, as well as Charles Haughey as ‘Tough Guy’; reviewer criticises commentary on Henry’s pronunciation of “Shtop” on the grounds that characters belong to tourist guides if not allowd their idiom without qualification, and worries about ‘instant fictionalisation’. (p.11.)

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Eileen Battersby, ‘All that glisters is not gold’, in The Irish Times (29 Sept. 2001) [Weekend], asks: ‘[…] who exactly was Eamon Sweeney’s slickly intelligent observation, The Photograph, written for? English readers could certainly respond to it as a political satire Irish-style but for Irish readers - or for anyone aware of Ireland’s recent history of disclosure, political scandal and clerical child abuse - its sending up of Irish political life is not even a guessing game as the plot and characterisation are so blatantly obvious it makes it impossible to respond to as a novel … it reads like a series of shrewd, journalistic swipes about Tribunal Ireland including daft portraits of Charles Haughey as the chieftain, the Canny Dub with the anorak and the self-destructive journo, with Albert Reynolds not exactly ingeniously transformed from a manufacturer of dog food to baby food, as a fallen good guy.’

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Notes
Summer Books” [annual column], in The Irish Times (24 June 2000): Eamon Sweeney is reading an advance copy of John Banville’s Eclipse; also the letters of Abelard and Heloise.

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