President of Ireland Mary McAleese presided at a ceremony last Monday to mark the election of Achill-based visual artist Camille Souter and composer Seóirse Bodley as Saoithe in Aosdána. The honour of Saoi is bestowed for singular and sustained distinction in the arts, and Monday last the President presented both artists with the symbol of the office, a gold torc. The ceremony took place at the Arts Council’s offices at 70 Merrion Square, Dublin 2, which is also the headquarters of Aosdána.
President Mary McAleese said it was a "joy" to present the artists with the symbol of the office, a gold torc. Both artists were beloved of their colleagues for their human qualities as well as their outstanding genius, she said.
“This is the showcasing of the judgment and of the respect of one's own colleagues.” Aosdána member Colm Tóibín praised the artists for their "single-mindedness, solitary nobility, their pursuit of difficult and complex truths".
Aosdána was originally established in 1981 by the Arts Council to acknowledge artists who have made an outstanding contribution to the arts in Ireland. Members of Aosdána nominate and elect the Saoithe and no more than seven artists may hold this honour at any one time. The current Saoithe are Louis Le Brocquy, Anthony Cronin, Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney and Patrick Scott. The ceremony was attended by many of the artists’ colleagues and numerous members of Aosdána, including John F Deane and Paul Durcan.