Book Launch - ‘The Church and its Spire’ John McGahern and the Catholic Question

On Tuesday 29 March, the launch of Eamon Maher’s latest book, ‘The Church and its Spire’: John McGahern and the Catholic Question, with a Foreword by Fintan O’Toole, took place in Scholars Trainee Restaurant in IT Tallaght. In launching the book, Eugene O’Brien, Head of English in Mary Immaculate College Limerick, said that it was a highly significant contribution to McGahern studies. ‘This was a book Eamon Maher had to write’, he said. ‘It marries two of his main research interests, Catholicism and the work of John McGahern. It establishes Dr. Maher as the main critic writing currently on the work of McGahern and it will cement his reputation in Ireland and internationally.’

Dr Maher spoke of how this study has been a long time in gestation and expressed the hope that readers would find that it was worth the wait. He was conscious that the launch was taking place on the eve of the 5th anniversary of McGahern’s death and spoke of the writer’s continued reverence for the rituals and ceremonies of the Catholic Church in spite of the role played by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid in his removal as a primary school teacher in Clontarf after the banning of his second novel, The Dark, in 1965. ‘Having suffered the humiliation of his book being banned and losing his main source of income, he never demonstrated the type of justified resentment he could have felt towards the Catholic Church. The fact that there were 7 priests at the altar to celebrate his funeral Mass in Aughawillan in 2006 and that he was accorded a Christian burial in spite of his well-aired atheistic views, shows how far Irish society had travelled in the 4 decades since the banning’, Dr Maher said. He recalled McGahern’s decision to break the promise he made to his beloved mother, who died when he was ten years old, that he would become a priest and say Mass for the repose of her soul, in order to follow another vocation. He stated in Memoir: ‘Instead of being a priest of god, I would be the god of a small, vivid world’. Dr Maher said that literature, and not religion, became the means through which McGahern attempted to make sense of the world and his place in it.

‘The Church and its Spire’: John McGahern and the Catholic Question is published by the Columba Press and retails at €18.99. For more details, check out the website:

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