Listowel Writers' Week has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The festival - the country’s oldest literary and arts festival - was due to run from 27-31 May.

In a statement, festival organisers said they were saddened to have to cancel, but health and safety and Government restrictions in response to the covid-19 pandemic had to take priority.

Festival Chairperson Catherine Moylan said that each of the participating authors was contacted individually and news of the cancellation was delivered to them.

"It’s a big hit for Listowel, because it’s an important week for the town, for businesses and for accommodation providers," Ms Moylan said. "All of North Kerry and not just Listowel will be at a loss for it."

Ms Moylan said a huge line-up of Irish and international authors had been finalised for this year’s festival.

That line-up was due to be announced imminently but was delayed because of the pandemic.

"In the end, the decision was nearly made for us," Ms Moylan said. She said the feedback from authors was "overwhelmingly good and supportive".

Listowel Writers’ Week will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021.

"We will have a long run-in now for next year," Ms Moylan added.