President pays tribute to ’immense’ contribution of Heaney
US vice president Biden says he was ’one of the finest Irish poets to ever live’
Late poet Seamus Heaney, above, has been described by Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan as a “very humble, modest man” who was “very accessible”.
The pair have been friends for decades and Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina attended the Nobel Prize winning ceremony in Oslo in 1995.
Mr Higgins said the greeted the news this morning with the “greatest sadness”.
He praised Heaney’s “extraordinary depth and warmth of personality” and his “grace and generosity”.
In a statement Mr Higgins said: “As tributes flow in from around the world, as people recall the extraordinary occasions of the readings and the lectures, we in Ireland will once again get a sense of the depth and range of the contribution of Seamus Heaney to our contemporary world.
“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.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Heaney’s death has brought “great sorrow to Ireland” and only the poet himself could describe the depth of his loss to the nation.
Mr Kenny added: “For us, Seamus Heaney was the keeper of language, our codes, our essence as a people.”
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore described Heaney as a “great Irish poet and a great Irishman”.
He described him as an “exceptional ambassador for Ireland” and his work “reflected his deep love and knowledge of the Irish land and the Irish people. His poetry explained us to ourselves. In his work, the dignity and honour of the everyday lives of people came to life. “His legacy will live on as one of the finest Irish poets to have ever lived.
US vice president Joe Biden described Heaney as “one of the finest Irish poets to ever live” and said he was deeply saddened to learn of his death. “Heaney taught us that ‘once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme’. We have been lucky, in our lifetimes, to see that tidal wave of justice rise, and to find our hopes reflected in historic moments of opportunity.
“But most of all, we were lucky to have a poet with the grace of Seamus Heaney, whose simple, honest wisdom could help us better understand ourselves and the world we inhabit. I am sorry that we lost him, but grateful that his words will live on.”