Heartfelt tributes flow for beloved poet Heaney
President Higgins speaks of depth and range of Nobel laureate’s contribution
President Michael D Higgins id greets Seamus Heaney during the Irish Book Awards at the RDS, Dublin, in 2011. The president said yesterday: “The presence of Seamus was a warm one, full of humour, care and courtesy – a courtesy that enabled him to carry with such wry Northern Irish dignity so many well-deserved honours from all over the world.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
The death of the Nobel laureate in the Blackrock Clinic was confirmed around mid-day by his family and his publisher, Faber and Faber of London. He had attended the clinic for a procedure but died before the operation. He was said to have been in “good form” the night before the operation but died yesterday morning at 7.30. The poet, who was born in Co Derry and grew up in Northern Ireland, spent most of his adult life in Dublin where he lived in Sandymount with his wife Marie and children Michael, Christopher and Catherine Ann.
His removal will take place tomorrow evening at 6.45 to the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook. The funeral will be on Monday after 11.30am Mass with burial later that day in Bellaghy, Co Derry.
News of the death prompted many tributes, which were led by President Michael D Higgins. They were instant, universally generous and heartfelt.
The President said that with the reaction to his death, “we in Ireland will once again get a sense of the depth and range of the contribution of Seamus Heaney to our contemporary world, but what those of us who have had the privilege of his friendship and presence will miss is the extraordinary depth and warmth of his personality.”
He continued: “The presence of Seamus was a warm one, full of humour, care and courtesy – a courtesy that enabled him to carry with such wry Northern Irish dignity so many well-deserved honours from all over the world . . . His careful delving, translation and attention to the work of other poets in different languages and often in conditions of unfreedom, meant that he provided them with an audience of a global kind. And we in Ireland gained from his scholarship and the breath of his reference.
“Generations of Irish people will have been familiar with Seamus’s poems. Scholars all over the world will have gained from the depth of the critical essays, and so many rights organisations will want to thank him for all the solidarity he gave to the struggles within the republic of conscience.”
‘Depth of loss’
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Heaney’s death had brought “great sorrow to Ireland, to language and to literature”.
“For us, Seamus Heaney was the keeper of language, our codes, our essence as a people . . . Today, it would take Seamus Heaney himself to describe the depth of his loss to us as a nation.
“We are blessed to call Seamus Heaney our own and thankful for the gift of him in our national life. He belongs with Joyce, Yeats, Shaw and Beckett in the pantheon of our greatest literary exponents.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Marie, Michael, Christopher, Catherine Ann and the extended Heaney family. I want them to know that, on this sad day, there are no words to describe adequately our nation’s and poetry’s grief at the passing of Seamus Heaney.”
Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan said he was a man who was loved. “To hear him read was a most beautiful experience. Seamus was loved, and his skill with words, language and their innate musicality was rare and special. His personal warmth, his wit, his humility, and his generosity with his time and his talent are well known.”
Heaney’s publisher Faber and Faber paid tribute to the poet’s “immeasurable” impact on literary culture: “We could not have been prouder to publish his poetry over nearly 50 years,” a spokeswoman said.