Obituary Note: Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien, co-founder of the independent Irish publisher the O'Brien Press, died July 31. He was 81. The Bookseller reported that the "hugely well-known and influential figure in Irish books and publishing... established the press in 1974 with his father, Thomas. It evolved out of a family-run printing house, publishing its first book, Me Jewell and Darlin' Dublin by Éamonn MacThomáis, in the year it launched."

"For someone so utterly involved in so many organizations and groups, as well as family and our company, to be pulled so quickly away from us is shocking," said Ivan O'Brien, his son and managing director of the company. "His bravery and willingness to take real risks and follow his instincts was always so impressive. He built a fantastic team of creative and highly-skilled people at O'Brien Press--predominantly women from its earliest beginnings--which was a testament to his unwavering belief that talent will deliver.

"Michael believed in telling great stories, in equality and tolerance and in Ireland's place in the world. He challenged everything, but also built so many things and committed his time and energy to national and international organisations because it was the right thing to do. We will take this legacy and do our best to maintain and build on it."

O'Brien Press was the first company to publish bestselling author Eoin Colfer. To date, the press has "published more than 2,000 books in its 45-year history, and has a reputation for promoting Irish authors including Máire Mhac an tSaoi and Frank McGuinness," the Bookseller wrote.

Among the many honors the O'Brien Press has received is the Reading Association of Ireland Special Merit Award in 1997, while O'Brien himself won a Children's Books Ireland award for services to children's literature in 2006.

Bob Johnston, owner of Gutter Books in Dublin, tweeted: "Very sad to hear of the death of publisher Michael O'Brien of The O'Brien Press yesterday. He was a big supporter of Irish authors and publishing and the whole book industry in Ireland. Our thoughts are with Ivan O'Brien and all his family, and with everyone at O'Brien Press."

Audrey Keane, literature manager at the Arts Council, said O'Brien had a highly distinguished career in Irish publishing. "He worked tirelessly and with unswerving dedication and commitment and his influence in the area of Irish publishing for children in particular leaves a lasting legacy. We send our deepest condolences to his friends and family and all at The O'Brien Press." 

Describing O'Brien as a "pioneering, brave and encouraging publisher," Ireland's President Michael D. Higgins said, "He had a deep love of Dublin and its people which was reflected in his publication choices. He was rightly proud of the tradition that he and his father shared."

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