Tributes paid Brian Friel - ‘a genius who walked amongst us’

President Michael D Higgins led tributes to his friend, playwright Brian Friel who died yesterday at his home in Greencastle, Co Donegal, at the age of 86.

“His legacy to the Irish people is immense,” said the President, noting that Friel will be remembered as a great Irishman and one of the giants of Irish literature.

“His is a body of work that will endure. He was familiar to generations of Irish people and others across the globe,” said President Higgins.

“His contribution to what one might call ‘the theatre of memory’ is an outstanding legacy.

“After Brian Friel’s work, no one could offer amnesia as an alternative to history. In great works like Translations with Field Day [theatre company] and The Great O’Neill [in Making History] he addressed the major contradictions in Irish identity and history.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the nation and the world had lost one of the greats of theatre

“His mythical stories from Ballybeg reached all corners of the world from Dublin to London to Broadway and onto the silver screen,” he said. “The consummate Irish storyteller, his work spoke to each of us with humour, emotion and authenticity. Like the great WB Yeats, he also served in Seanad Éireann.”

Tánaiste Joan Burton said Friel would be remembered as one of Ireland’s truly great writers who bought Irish theatres and arts to the international stage.

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys said: “Through his writing he brought Ireland, and particularly Donegal, to the world.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Ireland had lost an “iconic figure and tremendous artistic craftsman”.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams described Friel as a truly unique individual.

John Hume, one of Friel’s childhood school friends at St Columb’s College in Derry, said he was rightly regarded as one of the greatest playwrights of all time. “To put simply, Brian Friel was a genius. But he was a genius who lived, breathed and walked amongst us,” he said.

Brian Friel is survived by wife, Anne, three daughters, and a son. He was predeceased by his eldest daughter Patricia, who died in 2012.

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