David O’Mahony – Irish horror author


David O’Mahony is a horror and dark fantasy writer from Cork, Ireland. He specialises in ghost stories but also plays in other subgenres of horror, and firmly believes that horror does not have to be overtly frightening.

A prolific writer of short stories, he was a finalist in the 2024 Globe Soup primal fears competition and his first round entry to the 2024 NYC Midnight short story challenge was praised as a “creative, original take on the ghost story”. He has been published or is about to be published in Ireland, the US, Canada, Australia, India, and Thailand.

An award-winning newspaper designer, his non-fiction work tends to focus on history, in which he has a PhD. Read his non-fiction for the Irish Examiner here.

When not writing he is assistant editor of the Irish Examiner, where he has picked up numerous awards for eye-catching front pages. One of his efforts, marking the publication of the mother and baby homes report and naming all the children who died at Bessborough mother and baby home, featured on Sky News, BBC, and CNN as well as being raised in parliament as an important historical document.

His front page on the murder of Lyra McKee was named front page of the year in 2019, and his team produced the front page of the year for 2020 as well as having an unprecedented double nomination. The Bessborough page won the award in 2021 and he won the 2023 award for Thank you, Vicky.

Story bylines: 

Losing Your Grip, 2RulesofWriting.com, October 2023

Brotherly Love, davidomahony.ie, October 2023

Out of Time, Spillwords, December 2023

A Winter’s Wrath, Christmas of the Dead: Krampus Kountry, December 2023

Head Case, Flash of the Dead: Requiem, January 2024

Ghost of a Chance, Triumvirate volume 4, February 2024

Ties That Bind, 2RulesofWriting.com, February 2024

Atonement, Soulmate Syndrome: Certain Dark Things, March 2024

Blood Price, Masks of Sanity: Hidden In Plain Sight, April 2024

The Door, Spillwords, May 2024

Indistinct Background Character on a Field of Grey, 2RulesofWriting.com, May 2024

Sacrifices, Flash of the Undead, June 2024

Family Reunion, miniMAG, forthcoming July 2024

Opportunity Knocks, Blood Moon Rising, forthcoming July 2024

The Archaeological Findings of Ballybrassil, Cork: A Challenge to the Traditional Narrative, Perseid Prophecies, forthcoming July 2024

Armageddon, AntiopdeanSF, forthcoming August 2024

Published Irish Examiner bylines

Paddle Steamer Entering the Port of Cork, by George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson

While the pace of publication here has slowed it’s not from lack of writing. Rather, some of the pieces that began life as potential posts here have ended up in the pages (print and digital) of the Irish Examiner.

I’m particularly proud of this one, written up to coincide with International Women’s Day. It was inspired by one of my female farming ancestors, my great grandmother Ellen Connolly, aka Ella Collins, aka “Granny Coll” to my mother and her siblings. Along the way it became a call to celebrate the legacy of women who worked the land.

Remembering Ireland’s forgotten farming women

My writing draws heavily on aspects of my own family’s history, which sort of parallels the history of many other Irish people. The furore over the ending of the eviction ban in Ireland brought up our angry, wounded association with the word “eviction” but to me also recalled a word that followed it, particularly in Famine time: workhouse. One of my ancestors was born there.

‘Eviction’ brings up other grim aspects of our history

Just last week I wrote a piece that was intended to fill in for one regular columnist, but ended up filling in for another on a different day (such is the way of the warrior). It focuses on Cork’s relationship with the water, which is as much one in its head as it is something tangible and real compared to how it used the water in previous years.

Back when the Lee was Cork’s life blood

I currently don’t have anything else in the pipeline for the Examiner but then again these weren’t planned long ahead so who knows what the future will bring? In the meantime I will work away on a piece about Frankenstein, one of my favourite books and one which I reread just a couple of weeks ago.

Femicide special report pages

These pages from 2016 were a different sort of layout package to what I normally do.

We had a report in from Women’s Aid on the number of women who had died violently in Ireland, looking back over the previous 20 years of the Femicide Watch Project – 209 at that point, with 131 killed in their own homes. It was grim reading.

Our editor at the time, Allan, asked me if I could look at doing something different with representing it. We had the unusual option of making the centre pages of the main newspaper, normally where things like features are in the Examiner book, into a special report for news and of trying to get it printed as a panoramic (where there is no gutter down the middle because the pages are on a single plate).

To give this a chance at working it would have to be a four-page mini section (I’ve lost the PDF of the fourth page). There were, if I recall, two narrative pieces of text and it was suggested to me that I try and use as many faces as possible. I decided that our report should have a cover page before turning into the report proper. This is what I came up with:

Women’s Aid had compiled all the names, dates, and who killed the women into one list (some killers were awaiting trial at the time). This was bleak reading but essential to the whole point of the report. Pasting them onto the page and seeing how they filled it was cause for reflection. I had an image planned at first and was going to put the names under or around it but then it occurred to me that their names were the point. So I made sure they were, and faded out the word “Killed” behind the list, with each name in bold so you can read them clearly.

At the time, Clodagh Hawe would have been the highest profile of the names along with Elaine O’Hara but it was absolutely essential that no one person be highlighted as a lead image, contrary to typical design rules (which I only use as guidelines anyway). I spent several hours sifting through the archive and found… well, found that we had a great many of the women who had been killed in our database. Not all the image files were the same size, nor were they cropped similarly, so my solution was to run columns of same-size images.

You’ll see if you tap or click on the spread below that the columns are not mirror images of one another, except for the sort of frame of faces I created around the analysis piece, which needed to be as symmetrical as possible to avoid being too distracting to the reader. Generally though the columns have roughly the same number of images in similar shapes, albeit occasionally mixed and matched depending on whether the available photo was a headshot or more upright.

Regrettably, for reasons I don’t remember, this wasn’t printed properly as a panoramic but ended up with a small gutter down the middle. Thankfully it was the text that took the brunt of this and not a face in one of the pictures, which would have felt unforgiveable.

We don’t normally put content above the Irish Examiner titlepiece but do it when the occasion warrants it, so I made the argument that this was one of those occasions. The stock image I used is deliberately grim, and I had our graphics department convert it to mono but to colour the drops of blood on the shoe a very strong red so they stood out.

This is one of the packages I’m particularly proud of and the names concept, as I’m sure you’ve realised, was one I revisited in a different form for the Bessborough page.

Bloodbath in Brussels

Bloodbath in Brussels front page

It seems almost a lifetime ago, but in March 2016 Belgium was hit by bombings in Brussels Airport and on the metro. More than 35 people died, including three suicide bombers, while hundreds were injured. The trial only opened in December.

We were going big on it. Europe was already on alert after the Paris attacks and the Bataclan theatre, and there was a definite sense of edginess. We knew Irish people had been in the area in Brussels, which at the end of the day hosts the headquarters of the EU. I remember coming into work with half a concept of a page in mind. Or a vague idea anyway. Some of the details of the attacks had been out for a few hours; it was clear even then that there had been significant loss of life and a huge number of injuries. I wanted to do something that conveyed the horror of it, but also the human cost.

One of the first things I did after starting work was trawl through all the images we had available. I don’t remember how many there were. Presumably dozens. I knew I was looking for something particular. I just didn’t know exactly what it was, until I saw the picture I ended up using.

This was the very first time I asked to drop the ad off the front page. I mocked up a concept to show the editor at the time, Tim Vaughan, because I knew it would be easier to make that argument if he had something in his hand as opposed to words coming out of my mouth. The image was powerful but not powerful enough if it had to accommodate a 20cm, three-column ad. Or not as powerful as it could be anyway.

At the time I wasn’t even the main front page person (I had done plenty, though) but Tim, to his credit, understood what I was trying to achieve and made the arrangements to go ad free. The result is what you see above.


This is one of the most important projects I’ve worked on, probably ever, and it was certainly one where we couldn’t afford to get something wrong in tone or treatment.

Bessborough was one of the most notorious mother and baby homes – where hundreds of children died over nearly 80 years, and where the resting places of 859 have never been found – and is in the Examiner’s heartland. This page was planned about a week in advance of the publication of a government commission into mother and baby homes nationally. Or begun, at least.

The general concept became clear almost immediately – how else could you commemorate the deaths of hundreds of children without putting their names front and centre? We had different options: Just the names with the years and dates, or the names with years, dates, and cause of death. Even a quick draft with the latter showed that it was too much information and it took away from the names, so that concept was dropped.

It was a rare case where I suggested dropping ads off the front page. It made sense given what we were trying to achieve. There were 13 or 14 variations in the end, many with only slight differences in things like opacity of the text frame sitting on the image by Larry Cummins. There were different crops of the image, there were a couple of versions with the image in black and white, and various measures of leading and kerning to balance fitting everything without making the names too small.

The response to this was overwhelming, and not only did it get picked up internationally but it was projected on a grand scale as part of an art installation to honour the survivors of mother and baby homes across the country.