The competition is run by RTE, Ireland’s national broadcaster, in memory of Francis MacManus and is open to entries written in Irish or English from authors born or resident in Ireland. The total prize fund is €6000, out of which the winning author receives €3,000. Sums of €2,000 and €1,000 are awarded to the second and third prize winners.
The number of entries is typically in excess of 800 stories (810 in 2011, 860 in 2010) out of which a shortlist of 25 is compiled. Each of the 25 short-listed stories is read and recorded by professional actors. The judges listen to these recordings and read the stories to consider their broadcasting and short story qualities before they select the winning entries. The recordings are broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 following the announcement of the competition winners.
According to the entry form, “Over the past 25 years the competition has proved to be a launching pad for several new and emerging Irish writers and continues to offer a platform for the best of contemporary Irish fiction.” Since 1985 over 500 stories from the competition have been broadcast. Among the names who have featured and who have gone on to win acclaim in Ireland and internationally are Claire Keegan, Molly McCloskey, Anthony Glavin, Mary O’Donnell and Ivy Bannister.