Seamus Heaney was 'a poet for all people'

Seamus Heaney.Seamus Heaney.
Seamus Heaney.
Seamus Heaney's 'generous' support of the arts bridged the community divide and demonstrated his role as a 'poet for all people', it has been suggested.

The late poet's contribution to east Antrim has been highlighted following a row over his inclusion in material commemorating the centenary of Northern Ireland.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood last week sparked debate by suggesting the move was "offensive" and a "cynical attempt to co-opt [Heaney’s] image and reduce his work to a branding tool to promote that narrative about partition."

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Commenting on social media, Mid and East Antrim councillor Andrew Clarke wrote: "Colum Eastwood thinks that it is ‘deeply offensive’ for the people of Northern Ireland to celebrate our greatest poet.

"Seamus Heaney is every bit as much ‘mine’ as he is Colum’s. I suggest the SDLP leader use his Christmas break to read some of Seamus Heaney’s stuff. He will find that Seamus identified as ‘Ulster-Irish’, and writes on the Ulster Scots influence in his Co Derry dialect and work - in fact one of Heaney’s last works was a translation from medieval Scots.

"Colum will find a man big enough to call this place by its proper name, and a man generous enough to write a poem commemorating the centenary of Queen’s University being granted its Royal Charter. In other words, someone with enough vision to reach and understand those from different backgrounds."

Responding to Cllr Clarke, local historian Dr David Hume described how the Bellaghy-born poet, who died in 2013, once contributed a hand-written piece to a fund-raising auction run by Ballycarry Community Association.

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The auction aimed to raise funds for the restoration of a monument to poet, James Orr.

"[Heaney] most kindly sent us a handwritten poem, which was the big seller at the auction. A great and generous man and a poet for all people," Dr Hume said.


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