It is with much shock and sadness that we report that one of our greatest literary poets, Seamus Heaney, has passed away in a Dublin hospital following a short illness aged 74. Beloved by many he is regarded as the greatest poet to come out of Ireland since the legendary W.B Yeats. While most of us here in Ireland are familiar with his poetry which has been a regular part of the Junior and Leaving cert school syllabi, his influence on literature spread far and wide outside of our humble shores. He was one of our best known names in literature, his work inspiring readers both nationally and internationally, and won him international acclaim and awards, the highlight being the noble prize for literature in 1995.
Born on a farm near Toomebridge in Co Derry in April 1939, Heaneys work dealt with his homeland of Ireland, in particular the Troubles in Northern Ireland, where he was born. Some of his best-known poems were Death of a Naturalist (1966), Digging, Follower, Mid-Term Break, Mossbawn: Two Poems in Dedication, The Harvest Bow, The Tollund Man, Bogland, North (1975) and Twice Shy.
Upon news of his death tributes have flooded in from well wishers from around the world. Among those figures both national and international who laid out tributes at the sad news of the beloved Irish poets death were President Higgins himself, a fellow published poet, who described Heaney as being warm, humorous, caring and courteous. “A courtesy that enabled him to carry with such wry Northern Irish dignity so many well-deserved honors from all over the world,” he said. President Higgins added: “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, 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.”
Irish Taoiseach (Prime minister) Enda Kenny noted that 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 said: “For us, Seamus Heaney was the keeper of language, our codes, our essence as a people.”
Indeed he was, one of our greatest and best loved poets, Seamus Heaney held a significant place in Irish literature and history and will be most sadly missed but not forgotten his legend will continue on in the great annals of Irish poets and literature greats.