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Saoi (Irish pronunciation: [sˠiː], plural Saoithe; literally "wise one"; historically the title of the head of a bardic school) is the highest honour bestowed by Aosdána, a state-supported association of Irish creative artists. The title is awarded, for life, to an existing Aosdána member. There are at most seven living Saoithe at any time;[1] a limit increased from five in 2007–08.[2][3] At the conferring ceremony, a torc (a twist/spiral of gold, worn around the neck) is presented to the Saoi, typically by the President of Ireland.

Nominating process[edit]

A committee of ten members of Aosdána referred to as the Toscaireacht[4] monitor and manage the nominating process to confirm adherence to the established rules. Fifteen members of the Aosdána must nominate a candidate of merit and distinction. An election by secret ballot then occurs with all members. Approval is determined by at least 50% + 1 of the membership voting approval.

Only one nomination per vacancy may be processed through an election at a time. If multiple candidate submissions are received, they go through the election process one at a time until a successful approval is declared. Subsequent nominees are held until there is a future vacancy.


Saoithe of Aosdána[5]
Name Field[nb 1] Elected Invested Died Refs
Samuel Beckett Literature October 1984 1985 1989 [6][7]
Seán Ó Faoláin Literature 1986 1986 1991 [8]
Patrick Collins Visual arts 1987 1987 1994 [9][10]
Mary Lavin Literature 1992 1993 1996 [11][12]
Louis le Brocquy Visual arts 1992 1993 2012 [13][11]
Tony O'Malley Visual arts 1993 1993 2003 [11][14]
Benedict Kiely Literature March 1996 1996 2007 [15][16]
Francis Stuart Literature October 1996 1996 2000 [15][17]
Seamus Heaney Literature 1997 1998 2013 [18][19]
Anthony Cronin Literature March 2003 27 June 2003 2016 [20][21]
Brian Friel Literature 2006 2006 2015 [22]
Patrick Scott Visual arts 28 March 2007 11 July 2007 2014 [23][3][24]
Camille Souter Visual arts 9 May 2008 24 November 2008 2023 [2][25]
Seóirse Bodley Music September 2008 24 November 2008 living [26][25]
William Trevor Literature 29 September 2014 2015 2016 [27][28]
Edna O'Brien Literature 2015 15 September 2015 living
Imogen Stuart Visual arts 2015 15 September 2015 living
George Morrison Visual arts[nb 2] 2016 9 March 2017 living [31][30]
Tom Murphy Literature 2017 2017 2018 [32]
Roger Doyle Music 2019 2019 living [33]

  1. ^ The fields of choreography and architecture have not produced any Saoithe.[5]
  2. ^ Morrison is a filmmaker; there being no specific category for "film", he is classed by Aosdána under "visual arts".[29][30]


  1. ^ "Saoi Award and Nomination Process". Retrieved 2008-05-13.
  2. ^ a b "Aosdána elects 10 new members and announces Camille Souter as Saoi". Arts Council of Ireland. 9 May 2008. Retrieved 5 February 2015. At today's General Assembly it was also announced that painter Camille Souter had been elected as Saoi. The honour of Saoi is for singular and sustained distinction in the arts: not more than seven artists may hold this honour at any one time.
  3. ^ a b "President of Ireland Mary McAleese honours the artist Patrick Scott at a special Aosdána ceremony". Arts Council of Ireland. 11 July 2007. Retrieved 5 February 2015. Members of Aosdána may receive this honour of distinction in the arts, known as Saoi, and not more than five artists may hold this honour at any one time.
  4. ^ "Toscaireacht Committee and Current Membership". Retrieved 2008-05-13.
  5. ^ a b "Former members". Aosdána. Retrieved 29 January 2015. and "Current members". Aosdána. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  6. ^ Arts Council of Ireland. "Aosdána" (PDF). Annual Report 1984. p. 11. ISBN 0906627079. ISSN 0790-1593. At the October General Assembly, Mr Samuel Beckett was elected as the first Saoi. In accordance with the regulations of Aosdána Uachtarán na hÉireann presents a Tore in recognition of the honour of Saoi to the recipient. By the end of the year arrangements were being made with Áras An Uachtaráin to give effect to this.
  7. ^ Lendennie, Jessie; Hickson, Paddy (1991). The Salmon Guide to Creative Writing in Ireland. Salmon Pub. p. 28. ISBN 9780948339660.
  8. ^ Arts Council of Ireland (1988). "Aosdána" (PDF). Annual Report 1986. p. 10. ISBN 0906627176. ISSN 0790-1593. The Members of Aosdána elected Sean O'Faoláin as Saoi the highest honour for artistic achievement. Uachtarán na hEireann, Dr. Patrick Hillery, visited Dr. O'Faoláin in his private residence to present to him the Torc which is the symbol of the office of Saoi.
  9. ^ Arts Council of Ireland. "Aosdána" (PDF). Annual Report 1987. p. 12. ISBN 0906627230. ISSN 0790-1593. A new Saoi was elected in 1987, Patrick Collins, visual artist. At a special ceremony in Aras an Uachtaráin, Uachtarán na hEireann, Dr Patrick Hillery, presented Patrick Collins with the Torc which is the symbol of the office of Saoi.
  10. ^ "Lot 163: "Mountain Lake"". "Important Irish Art": 8 December 2004. Dublin: Adam's auctioneers. Retrieved 29 January 2015. Patrick Collins ... was also a member of Aosdana and was elected Saoi in 1987.
  11. ^ a b c Arts Council of Ireland. "Aosdána" (PDF). Annual Report 1993. p. 13. ISBN 0906627559. ISSN 0790-1593. Three new Saoi, Mary Lavin, Louis le Brocquy and Tony O'Malley, were elected by the membership
  12. ^ Briggs, Sarah (1996). "Mary Lavin: Questions of identity". Irish Studies Review. 4 (15): 10–15. doi:10.1080/09670889608455532. ISSN 0967-0882. She was elected 'Saoi' by Aosdana, in 1992, for her outstanding achievement in literature.
  13. ^ "Louis le Brocquy". Former Members. Aosdána. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  14. ^ "Holding on to the Outside, Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, Co Kildare". Irish Museum of Modern Art. 2002. Retrieved 29 January 2015. Tony O'Malley ... is a member of Aosdána and was elected Saoi in 1993.
  15. ^ a b Arts Council of Ireland. "Aosdána Report" (PDF). Annual Report 1996. p. 18. ISSN 0790-1593. In March, Benedict Kiely, novelist, short story writer and journalist, was elected to the office of Saoi in Aosdána. In October this honour was also conferred upon the ninety-four year old writer, Francis Stuart, a most important and controversial figure in the history of 20th century Irish literature. Both men were presented with the gold torc, the symbol of the Saoi, by President Mary Robinson at ceremonies at the Arts Council offices.
  16. ^ "Benedict Kiely". Former Members. Aosdána. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  17. ^ "Francis Stuart". Former Members. Aosdána. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  18. ^ Arts Council of Ireland. "Aosdána Report" (PDF). Annual Report 1998. p. 9. ISSN 0790-1593. In 1998, a General Assembly and a Pre-Assembly meeting were held, poet Seamus Heaney was elected to the position of Saoi
  19. ^ Lynch, Brian (30 August 2013). "Heaney's gift of seeing beauty in everything". Irish Independent. Retrieved 29 January 2015. He was a founder member of Aosdána and was elected a Saoi in 1997
  20. ^ Aosdána. "Annual Report 2003" (PDF). p. 5. ISSN 0790-1593. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 15, 2010. Anthony Cronin, a founding member of Aosdána, was elected Saoi in March 2003, and conferred with the gold Torc, the symbol of the office of Saoi by President Mary McAleese, in a ceremony at the Arts Council offices on 27 June 2003.
  21. ^ "University Awards - Honorary Degrees - 05/06". UCD President's Office. Dublin: UCD. Retrieved 29 January 2015. Anthony Cronin was ... founding member of Aosdána, of which he was made a Saoi in 2003.
  22. ^ Hogan, Louise (23 February 2006). "Saoi here, Friel has the rite stuff to merit our highest arts honour". Irish Independent. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  23. ^ "Aosdána elects 15 new members including, for the first time, choreographers; Aosdána Announces Patrick Scott as Saoi". Dublin: Arts Council of Ireland. 28 March 2007. Archived from the original on 20 November 2007. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  24. ^ "Patrick Scott honoured at Aosdána ceremony". RTÉ Ten News. RTÉ. 11 July 2007. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  25. ^ a b "President of Ireland Mary McAleese honours artists Camille Souter and Seóirse Bodley". Arts Council of Ireland. 24 November 2008. Retrieved 5 February 2015. President of Ireland Mary McAleese ... presented both Camille and Seóirse with the symbol of the office, a gold Torc.
  26. ^ "Seóirse Bodley Elected Saoi of Aosdána". What's New. Ireland: Contemporary Music Centre. 22 September 2008. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  27. ^ "William Trevor elected to position of Saoi by Aosdána to honour outstanding achievements". RTÉ.ie. 29 September 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  28. ^ "William Trevor". Current Members. Aosdána. Retrieved 4 February 2015. A conferring ceremony, at which the President of Ireland will present William Trevor with a torc, the symbol of Aosdána, will be announced in the coming months.
  29. ^ JM (Spring 2017). "Seventeen vie for Aosdána membership". Irish Arts Review. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  30. ^ a b "George Morrison". Current Members. Aosdana. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  31. ^ "Film-maker George Morrison bestowed title of Saoi of Aosdána". The Irish Times. 10 March 2017. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  32. ^ "President Higgins honours playwright Tom Murphy". RTE. 4 Sep 2017. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  33. ^ "Composer Roger Doyle elevated to Saoi by Aosdána". Irish Times. 16 Aug 2019. Retrieved 4 December 2019.

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