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The Irish Way of Death – 24 Sept

24th September 2018 @ 19:30 - 21:00 UTC

The Irish Literary Society opens its 2018-19 season with a meditation on death, dying and our attitudes to mortality. In his book, The Way We Die Now, Dr. O’Mahony gives us a rare glimpse into the world of death and dying from the vantage point of a medical doctor. In My Father’s Wake Toolis writes of his coming-to-terms with the death of his father and brother and reflects on the denial of space for grief in the modern world. Of Toolis’ book Hugo Hamilton has written: “Toolis has written a profound book on the culture of grief and death, placing the personal alongside the political in a vivid exploration of our ancient ways of coming together around the dead.”

‘O’Mahony explores the idea of a good death in literature and philosophy, and shows that reality is far more chaotic and unpleasant…A searingly honest and humane book that is challenging yet profoundly important.’P D Smith in The Guardian

What have we lost in moving from the funeral rites of Achill to the medicalised procedure that most of us now experience of death? These rich accounts of care for the dying and dead offer a critique of the idea of a ‘good death’, a reflection on the literary history of death and the role of the hospital as antechamber to the tomb. Henry James called death ‘the distinguished thing’, but O’Mahony reminds us, ‘death, for most people, is banal, anticlimactic. The End is robbed of its significance by our new hospital rituals. Most people who die in hospitals do so after several days of syringe-driver induced oblivion.’ Book signing to follow discussion.


Speaker: Kevin Toolis
Kevin Toolis

Kevin Toolis is a writer and filmmaker. He has written for The Guardian, the New York Times Magazine and The Observer and reported on conflicts in Africa, Ireland and the Middle East. He is the author of an acclaimed chronicle of Ireland’s Troubles, Rebel Hearts. As a filmmaker Toolis was nominated for an Emmy for his documentaries on suicide bombing in the Middle East and won a BAFTA for Best Single Drama for Complicit in 2014. His family have lived in the same oceanside village on Achill island for the last 250 years.

Speaker: Dr Seamus O’Mahony
Dr Seamus O'Mahony

Dr Seamus O’Mahony is a Consultant Gastroenterologist at Cork University Hospital and graduate of UCC. He has been a consultant physician since 1996, and is a Fellow of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of London and Edinburgh. His has published extensively in the fields of endoscopy, coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease, and was awarded the MD in 1991. His current main academic interest is medical humanities, and has written extensively in this field. He is associate editor for medical humanities of the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and is a regular contributor to the Dublin Review of Books.

Chair: Prof Anthea Tinker
Professor Anthea Tinker

Anthea Tinker has been Professor of Social Gerontology at King’s College London since 1988. She has been on the staff of three Universities and three Government Departments and has been a Consultant to the WHO, EU and OECD. She has undertaken a wide range of research in the field of social policy specialising since 1974 in gerontology. She is the author or co-author of 32 books and over 300 articles and book chapters. 



24th September 2018
19:30 - 21:00 UTC
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Irish Literary Society


The Bloomsbury Hotel
16-22 Great Russell St
London, WC1B 3NN United Kingdom
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