President Michael D Higgins leads tributes to Kerry-born poet Brendan Kennelly

One of Ireland's best-known poets, he penned more than 30 collections 
President Michael D Higgins leads tributes to Kerry-born poet Brendan Kennelly

Poet and author Brendan Kennelly (PA)

President Michael D Higgins has led tributes to poet Brendan Kennelly, who has died aged 85.

Originally from Ballylongford in Co Kerry, the former long-standing professor of modern literature at Trinity College Dublin was one Ireland’s best known poets, having penned more than 30 collections.

The death of the celebrated poet, author and broadcaster came a day after another acclaimed Irish poet died.

Dublin born Irish language poet Marie Mhac an tSaoi died on Saturday at the age of 99.

President Higgins hailed Kennelly’s contribution to Irish literature.

“As one of those who had the great fortune of enjoying the gift of friendship with Brendan Kennelly for many years, it is with great sadness that I have heard of his passing,” he said.

“As a poet, Brendan Kennelly had forged a special place in the affections of the Irish people. He brought so much resonance, insight, and the revelation of the joy of intimacy to the performance of his poems and to gatherings in so many parts of Ireland. He did so with a special charm, wit, energy and passion.”

Taoiseach Micheal Martin added: “We’ve lost a great teacher, poet, raconteur; a man of great intelligence and wit.

“The Irish people loved hearing his voice and reading his poetry.”

Dr Mary McAuliffe said "it’s been a long 24 hours, keeping company with my beloved uncle and godfather Brendan - along with family, he slipped peacefully away from us as dusk fell over north Kerry this afternoon."

Provost and president of Trinity College Linda Doyle tweeted: “It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of Brendan Kennelly today. He was an inspiring teacher, a talented poet and a warm and good humoured presence on campus. He will be missed by his much loved family, Trinity and the country.”


President Higgins and the Taoiseach also paid tribute to Mhac an tSaoi.

The poet and critic was the widow of renowned historian, politician and diplomat Conor Cruise O’Brien. Her late father was former Tanaiste Sean McEntee.

A former barrister, Mhac an tSaoi also had a career in the Irish diplomatic service.

Mr Higgins described her as one of the leading Irish language poets of the 20th century.

“A woman of immense talent and one of our most gifted, creative writers, she made a profound and distinctive contribution to our society in terms of literature, diplomacy and above all poetry,” he said.

“Her fearless, powerful and intriguing personality led her to defy established convention and expectations in a unique way.

“A prolific writer she had a lifelong, and contagious, passion for the Irish language, and for the people of the Gaeltacht.”

Mr Martin said she “lived a remarkable life”.

“Without question, she was one of the great modern Irish poets,” he tweeted.

“She leaves a wonderfully rich legacy that will last for generations.”


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