Accepting the Bord Gáis Energy Irish National Book Award from President Michael D Higgins, Mr Heaney said “writers and creative writers especially work in order to make something safe and sound in language, in order for others not to lose their souls.”
“This gives them a detached attitude to certain forms of success, forms of success which we have seen fail spectacularly and disastrously in the last few years,” he said.
“At this time in Ireland, and Europe and the whole world, we see how little it has profited so many men to attempt to gain the whole world.”
For this reason, he said, it is comforting for Irish writers to know that their work is its own reward.
President Higgins said there could be no more justifiable winner of the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement award than our fourth Nobel laureate.
Describing him as “a man without ego,” he thanked Mr Heaney for “creating a vocabulary for us all.”
In a video recording, former US president Bill Clinton said Mr Heaney is one of the world’s favourite poets and he is honoured to call him his friend.
“No lyric ever stopped a tank, but he knows better than any of us how poetry helps us find our common humanity,” he added.
Other winners included filmmaker Neil Jordan, Alan Glynn, Rachel Allen, Sheila O’Flanagan, Nicolas Roche, Belinda McKeon, Chris Judge and Anna Carey.