President pays tribute to ‘extraordinary’ poets Brendan Kennelly and Máire Mhac an tSaoi

‘We have lost so many people,’ Michael D Higgins says after deaths of two Irish poets

President Michael D Higgins has paid tribute to the poets Brendan Kennelly and Máire Mhac an tSaoi who died over the weekend.

Mr Higgins described them as “two extraordinary, important figures”.

The President praised Mr Kennelly’s commitment to sharing poetry and said his performance of it “going around the country created huge audiences in extraordinary places for poetry. He had crafted an extraordinary place in the affections of the Irish people.”

Mr Higgins added that Mr Kennelly’s wish was that his poems would be remembered and would be said out loud, and he was committed to making poetry available to prisoners.


“He and people like Paul Durcan and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and others created huge audiences for poetry around the country,” he said.

Ms Mhac an tSaoi, who died aged 99, was praised by the President for her commitment to writing in Irish and for her “life of courage and of defying convention”.

She had written “very directly” about sensuality and personal feeling in a revelatory way, which was a great strength of hers, he said.

Ms Mhac an tSaoi’s poetry exemplified the beauty of the Irish language where

“every sound has a reason for it”, he added.

Mr Higgins said he had attended the funerals of traditional musicians Tony McMahon and Paddy Moloney last week. "We have lost so many people," he said.

Mr Kennelly’s niece, academic at University College Dublin Dr Mary McAuliffe, tweeted: “It’s been a long 24 hours, keeping company with my beloved uncle and godfather Brendan – along with family, he slipped peacefully away from us as dusk fell over north Kerry this afternoon. We will miss him terribly Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary general Niall Burgess said Ms Mhac an tSaoi was one of the first women recruited to the Irish diplomatic service. "We remember her as a fine diplomat, a trailblazer and an inspiration for generations of women who followed," he tweeted.