Hundreds attend Dublin removal of Seamus Heaney

Funeral Mass for poet to be held in Donnybrook before burial in his native Co Derry

Hundreds of people gathered to pay their respects to the late Nobel poet laureate Seamus Heaney and his family as his remains were removed to the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin this evening.

The service was packed to capacity with a mix of family, friends and members of the community as well as those from the world of arts, entertainment and politics.

"The hermit and the poet probably have much in common: the need for solitude; the deep down awareness of things and the self discipline to spend hours in observation," Fr Kevin Doran, administrator of the Donnybrook parish, told the assembled crowd.

“The generosity of Seamus is such that he hands his poem over to us and allows us to make our own mind up...The body of Seamus at the heart of our gathering this evening makes him in a sense the focus of our gathering. But in another sense the funeral is all about the family...this is the time of mourning.”


Heaney is survived by his wife Marie and their children Michael, Christopher and Catherine Ann, as well as extended family.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin also assisted with the service as did Fr Michael Paul Gallagher, a Jesuit priest who travelled from Rome.

The hundreds-strong crowd was an indicator of the level of mourners expected at tomorrow’s funeral, in which the recent life of the man who had been deemed Ireland’s greatest living poet will be eulogised in full.

At the end of this evening’s service, hundreds lined up patiently to pay their respects to the Heaney family and to sign waiting books of condolences.

Among those in attendance were Gay Byrne and his wife Kathleen, arts presenter John Kelly, Marian Finucane, Mike Murphy, Fr Brian Darcy and Nell McCafferty. The Irish Times was represented by its editor Kevin O'Sullivan.

Of the political establishment, the Minister for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan; the Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn; the Minister for Health James Reilly and the Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisin Quinn were all present. Taoiseach Enda Kenny was formally represented by Commandant Michael Treacey.

“It’s an amazing turn out at the church and it’s an illustration of how much he was loved,” said Gay Byrne who had interviewed Seamus Heaney on the Late Late Show in the wake of his 1995 Nobel Prize.

“He will be read for hundreds and hundreds of years and people will enjoy his poetry because it’s international. He will live with the greats.”

The arts presenter John Kelly said: “None of us have got our heads around it yet. It’s a personal loss, you are losing a friend, and you are also conscious that it is a big national loss and a global loss.”

The funeral will take place tomorrow at 11.30am after which he will be laid to rest at Bellaghy Cemetery in Derry.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times