The Divine Comedy was the surprise winner of the second Choice Music Prize last night for its album "Victory For The Comic Muse" (Parlophone).

The award, which is loosely modelled on the U.K.'s Mercury Music Prize, is chosen by a panel of 12 judges from a shortlist of 10 albums, and is presented to the Irish album of the year.

Accepting the award from non-voting chairman Jim Carroll, frontman Neil Hannon jokingly dedicated the award to all the band members he had sacked in years past, and to those he had yet to sack.

Last year's winner, Julie Feeney, was present on the night to see the award presented to the Northern Irishman.

Having been dropped by his record company in January, Hannon seemed genuinely thrilled with the honor, having beaten off competition from the likes of Snow Patrol ("Eyes Open"), Duke Special ("Songs From The Deep Forest"), Fionn Regan ("The End Of History"), Si Schroeder ("Coping Mechanisms"), David Kitt ("Not Fade Away"), The Republic Of Loose ("Aaagh!"), The Immediate ("In Towers And Clouds"), Director ("We Thrive On Big Cities") and Messiah J & The Expert ("Now This I Have To Hear").

The ceremony, which featured live performances from eight of the 10 nominated acts, was held in Dublin's Vicar St. venue, a location long associated with Irish music promoters Aiken Promotions, whose founder Jim Aiken passed away the day before.

In an emotional speech, Choice Music Prize founder Jim Carroll paid tribute to the work that Aiken did in helping to build the infrastructure of rock'n'roll in Ireland in years past.

Hannon received a cheque for €10,000 from the organizers; the event is funded by IRMA, the Irish Recorded Music Assn., and IMRO, the Irish Music Rights Organization.

The Choice Music Prize was broadcast live via national radio station Today FM on Tom Dunne's Pet Sounds program.