Eugene Rutherford Watters is the eldest of two sons and two daughters born to Thomas Watters, a soldier, and his wife, Maud Sproule. His second name comes from his grandfather, Rutherford Sproule. He is educated at Garbally College. He enters St. Patrick’s Teacher Training College, Drumcondra, Dublin, in 1939, graduating with a Diploma in Education in 1945. He is awarded an MA, by University College Dublin in 1947.
Ó Tuairisc holds a commission in the Irish Army during the Emergency from 1939 to 1945. He is a teacher in Finglas, County Dublin from 1940 to 1969. From 1962 to 1965, he is editor of Feasta, the journal of Conradh na Gaeilge.
Ó Tuairisc writes novels, verse, drama and criticism in both Irish and English. His first major publication is his controversial novel Murder in Three Moves (1960), followed by the Irish-language prose epic L’Attaque (1962), which wins an Irish Book Club award. Both works have a strong poetic flavour. His next book is a volume of verse entitled Week-End. His narrative poem The Weekend of Dermot and Grace (1964), an Irish version of Venus and Adonis, is considered his finest work.
Ó Tuairisc’s first wife, the Irish artist Una McDonnell, dies in 1965. He produces little during the five years following McDonnell’s death, which is an unsettled period of limited productivity, changing residence and jobs, and, ultimately, serious depression. In 1972 he marries the writer Rita Kelly, also of Ballinasloe. They live in the lock house at the Maganey Lock on the River Barrow that he had bought near Carlow, County Carlow.
In 1981 Ó Tuairisc publishes The Road to Brightcity: and other stories (Swords: Poolbeg Press, 1981), a translation of nine of the best short stories written originally in Irish by Máirtín Ó Cadhain. Also in 1981, he and Rita Kelly publish a joint collection of their poems, Dialann sa Díseart.
Like Diarmaid Ó Súilleabháin, Ó Tuairisc “challenged the critical orthodoxy by openly proclaiming that their standards could not be those of the Gaeltacht and by demanding a creative freedom that would acknowledge hybridity and reject the strictures of the linguistic purists.”
Ó Tuairisc is an inaugural member of Aosdána, when it is founded in 1981, and the first of its members to die. He is a recipient of an Arts Council of Ireland prize, as well as an Abbey Theatre prize for a Christmas pantomime in Irish.
Ó Tuairisc dies on August 24, 1982. He is survived by his second wife, Rita. A bibliography of his work, together with biographical information, is published in Irish in 1988.