Belfast Telegraph

Tributes for literary critic Eileen Battersby (60) after death in car accident

Eileen Battersby died after collision near Drogheda
Eileen Battersby died after collision near Drogheda
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Tributes have been paid to the renowned Irish literary critic Eileen Battersby who died in a car crash.

Ms Battersby (60) was critically injured in the single-vehicle collision on Saturday afternoon near Drogheda and died in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital on Sunday night. Her daughter Nadia was also injured in the accident and admitted to hospital.

Originally from California, she moved to Dublin to study English and history at University College Dublin before joining the Irish Times in 1988, where she stayed until July this year.

Irish President Michael D Higgins said the news of her death will have been met with “shock and enormous sadness” by those who knew her work. “All of us owe her a debt of gratitude for her unstinting efforts to bring the best writers from around the world to our attention,” he said.

Damian Smyth, head of literature at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “For so many years, Eileen Battersby was the foremost literary critic in Ireland, a champion plying her trade in the public press, that most exposed forum, keeping the seriousness of new writing to the fore in our culture. She will be greatly missed.”

Belfast author Rosemary Jenkinson said she had admired her ability to take on the big names.

“I remember she had once criticised Sebastian Barry (the celebrated Irish playwright, novelist and writer) very severely,” she said. “She was famous for being controversial and was very admired for standing up to literary geniuses and actually interrogating them more than the average critic. So she was admired for being so bold while also being criticised for her controversy, so a very divisive figure in Irish literature, but never boring.”

Paul O’Neill, editor of the Irish Times, praised Ms Battersby for her “distinctive voice, passion, insight and sharp critical faculties” she showed in her “immeasurable contribution” to the paper’s literary coverage over three decades.

The paper’s books editor Martin Doyle said he would remember her as a “fearless and forthright critic” who was internationally renowned as a passionate champion of literature, particularly in works of translation. He added: “Her enthusiasm was infectious, be it for her beloved horses and dogs or a newly-discovered or neglected author. She will be greatly missed.”

Irish Culture Minister Josepha Madigan called her an “immensely well-regarded arts critic and journalist”, noting her many awards included the National Arts Journalist of the year award.

Her works also included non-fiction, with a number focusing on her love for animals as well as a novel entitled Teethmarks On My Tongue. Mr Madigan added: “She will be greatly missed. I would also like to offer my sincere condolences to Eileen’s family and friends at this sad time.”

The team from RTE Radio’s Sunday Miscellany programme, where she was a regular contributor, said they were “greatly saddened” to hear of her death.

“As a contributor to Sunday Miscellany, Eileen wrote superb scripts with both emotional and intellectual depth,” said a post on the programme’s Twitter account.

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