Seamus Heaney dead at 74

Irish minister praises 'great ambassador'
  • @James_Legge

The world-renowned Irish poet Seamus Heaney has died. He was 74.

His family said he died in a Dublin hospital this morning following a short illness.

Born the eldest of nine children in Co Derry, Northern Ireland, Heaney won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 and was made a Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in 1996.

He attended a Catholic boarding school, and later at Queen's University Belfast, before making his home in Dublin, with periods of teaching in the US. He was an honorary fellow at Trinity College Dublin.

The 1966 collection Death of a Naturalist brought him into the public consciousness.

Ireland's Arts Minister, Jimmy Deenihan, paid tribute to the island's "great ambassador."

He said: “He was just a very humble, modest man. He was very accessible.

“Anywhere I have ever travelled in the world and you mention poetry and literature and the name of Seamus Heaney comes up immediately.

“He was a huge figure internationally, a great ambassador for literature obviously, but also for Ireland.”

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said: “His influence ran broader than the arts.

"We all remember how US president Bill Clinton chose Heaney's great phrase about when 'hope and history rhyme' from Heaney's play The Cure At Troy in his speech in Londonderry, and went on to use it for the title of his book detailing his vision of the US in the 21st Century."

And Patsy McGlone, SDLP MP for Mid-Ulster, where the poet was born, said: “Seamus Heaney was the voice of this community, a man of the people who knew his community well and reflected the history and cultural richness of that community.

“I remember him calling in to my father's business when I was younger and being struck by his humility.”

Heaney is survived by his wife, Marie, and children, Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann.