Lord Bannside has paid tribute to Seamus Heaney, whose handwritten poem holds a place in his library, recalling his meeting with the Nobel Prize winner many years ago as a “privilege”.
Dr Paisley was among many from the worlds of politics and the arts to express their sadness after the 74- year-old’s death in Dublin yesterday.
Heaney’s poem ‘The Cure At Troy’ was among gifts presented by Martin McGuinness to the former First Minister on his retirement.
One of the lines in the poem went down in history when it was recited during Bill Clinton’s 1995 visit to Northern Ireland, and then adopted by the former US President as the title of his book ‘Hope and History’.
The line read: “History says don’t hope on this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime, The longed-for tidal wave, Of justice can rise up. And hope and history rhyme.”
In a statement issued to the News Letter Mr Paisley said: “Naturally I am saddened to learn of the death of Seamus Heaney. My wife and I express our sympathy to his wife and family circle.
“I had the privilege of meeting him many years ago. In fact I have in my library a poem written in his own hand, framed and presented to me as a gift on the occasion of my retirement as First Minister by Mr McGuinness. Its theme is the ending of hostility and the fruits of reconciliation.”
The 87 year-old went on to praise Heaney as a giant of literature and prayed his family will be comforted in their time of mourning. “It is an under-statement to say that Seamus Heaney was a great poet, among the best in Ulster,” he said.