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National Playwriting Competition

The Irish Council for Bioethics (ICB) would like to congratulate Mr. Paul Meade on winning the Jim McNaughton/Tilestyle Bursary for Commissioned Artists, as part of the Allianz Business to Arts Awards 2009, for his play Begotten Not Made. Paul was presented with his award on 20th May 2009, by the President Mary McAleese.

On 29th January 2009, the ICB, in conjunction with Fishamble: The New Play Company, hosted a staged reading of Begotten Not Made in Farmleigh. The invited audience consisted of people working in the spheres of science, philosophy, law and the arts as well as policy-makers. The reading was followed by a panel discussion of the play, which included Dr. Siobhán O'Sullivan (ICB), Mr. Jim Culleton (Fishamble) and the playwright Mr. Paul Meade. The play received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the audience, which has encouraged the ICB, Paul and Fishamble to seek further funding and support to develop the play into a full production and/or a radio play.

Pictured at the staged reading of Begotten Not Made are (left to right): Jim Culleton (Fishamble), Dr. Siobhán O'Sullivan (Managing Scientific Director, ICB), Paul Meade (Playwright), Gavin Kostick (Fishamble).

The ICB subsequently hosted a second staged reading for the Judiciary and members of the Bar Council of Ireland in St Michan's Church on 29th April. Bioethics poses complex questions that confront humanity daily and, because of a dearth of regulation in Ireland, many of these are left for the courts to answer. It is for this reason that the Judiciary were eager to see Begotten Not Made. The reading was followed by an expert panel discussion, which included Dr. Siobhán O'Sullivan (ICB) Mr. Dónal O'Donnell SC and Dr. Gerard Hogan SC. Once again the ICB received overwhelmingly positive feedback and the ICB is hopeful that this endeavour will not only benefit members of the legal profession, but society at large as well.

The ICB held a similar event in Leinster House on 17th June. Due to the vast scientific and medical advances made in the last decade, Parliament is being increasingly asked to consider the enactment of new legislation. An Ceann Comhairle, Mr. John O'Donoghue TD and Senator Fiona O'Malley sponsored the event, which aimed to highlight the main policy and legislative issues relating to the diverse subject matter.

The actors from Begotten not Made (left to right): Darragh Kelly, Ruth Hegarty, Janet Moran, Cathy Belton, Susan Condon, Barry Barnes, and Conor Delaney.

Begotten Not Made is the culmination of a national bioethics playwriting competition, during which an esteemed panel of judges awarded talented playwright Paul Meade a commission to the value of €11,000. This unique initiative established an intersection between science and the arts and allowed for the possibility of exploring challenging philosophical and medical themes in a theatrical form.

At a time when Ireland hopes to advance itself as a "knowledge economy" by developing new scientific and medical technologies we must, as a nation, ask ourselves how these new technologies will impact on society. The ICB believes that Begotten Not Made provides an innovative and exciting response to this key challenge.

Synopsis of the Play:

Begotten Not Made deals with three bioethical issues in their most human form, in three interwoven strands:

  • The first strand tells the story of Gavin and Louisa who are struggling to conceive a child via IVF. Having exhausted all legal options, the couple must decide how far they are willing to go to have a baby.

  • In the second, we meet Brian and Dorothy who are travelling to Switzerland for an assisted suicide. During this story, their faith in God, their decision to opt for assisted suicide and their love for each other are all tested.

  • The third narrative relates to brother and sister John and Susan. John was born as a "saviour sibling" for Susan and his cells were used to save his sister's life. We watch as the pair sift through their past and attempt to resolve their differences.


The full programme for the staged reading in Farmleigh is available here.
The press release for the Farmleigh event can be viewed here.



Pictured at the staged reading of Begotten Not Made are (left to right): Dr. Peter McKenna (Member, ICB), Dr. Mary Henry (Member, ICB), Dr. Ruth Barrington (Molecular Medicine Ireland), and Dr. Andrew Green (Member, ICB).


Pictured at the staged reading of Begotten Not Made are: Prof. Patrick Cunningham (Chief Science Adviser) and Ms. Helena Nolan (Playwriting Competition Adjudicator).


For more information about Paul Meade, please see his biography here

Additional information about the Playwriting Competition is available here.






Photo Credits: Maxwell Photography.