Seamus Heaney opposed A6 road plan ‘desecration’

The Seamus Heaney HomePlace centre in Bellaghy
The Seamus Heaney HomePlace centre in Bellaghy

A letter has come to light outlining Seamus Heaney’s opposition to a new road through countryside that has become synonymous with the Nobel laureate.

Mr Heaney sent the letter in 2005 to the then Secretary of State Peter Hain after plans were unveiled to upgrade a section of the A6 near Loughbeg.

While Mr Heaney’s brother Hugh said he is fully behind the £160 million upgrade of the main Belfast to Londonderry road, it has become clear that the poet himself was not so keen.

In a letter seen by the Irish News, Mr Heaney said that although he was no longer a resident of the area he had been “alerted to the damage that will be done to the ecology in the Lough Beg/Creagh Bog area” if the favoured northern route close to Loughbeg was chosen.

“I have known and loved this area since childhood and have written about it – or rather out of it – often” he wrote.

“It is one of the few undisturbed bits of wetland in mid-Ulster, a direct link to the environment our Mehtolithic ancestors knew in the Ban valley and a precious ‘lung’ in the countryside.

He favoured the alternative route to the south through an abandoned US airbase from World War Two.

“Any motorway desecrates, but some desecrate more than others,” he said in the correspondence.

Campaigners say they hope Mr Heaney’s letter will be taken into consideration by planners.

Work has already begun on the carriageway, which will cut through an area in Co Londonderry close to Lough Beg and Mossbawn – the poet’s former family home.

The nine-mile dual carriageway will replace the existing road from Castledawson to the M22 motorway, including several bottlenecks which can cause lengthy tailbacks for motorists travelling between Belfast and Londonderry.

Although work has begun it is expected several road blocks will stand in the way of the contentious route.

An application for a judicial review into the scheme is currently before the High Court.

Back in September, the site of Bellaghy RUC station underwent a remarkable £4.25m transformation to become the new Seamus Heaney HomePlace.

The arts and literary centre explores the life, literature and inspirations of the Nobel prize-winning poet who died in 2013 and is buried in the nearby church graveyard.