Higgins: Heaney's 'contribution to humanity was immense'

President Michael D Higgins has paid tribute to Seamus Heaney on the news of his death saying the poet's contribution “to the republics of letters, conscience, and humanity was immense”.

Higgins: Heaney's 'contribution to humanity was immense'

Seamus Heaney and President Michael D Higgins at a ceremony at UCC to mark the acquisition by of the modern manuscript The Great Book of Ireland, Leabhar Mór na hÉireann..

President Michael D Higgins has paid tribute to Seamus Heaney on the news of his death saying the poet's contribution “to the republics of letters, conscience, and humanity was immense”.

His family have confirmed the Nobel Laureate's death, they said.

“The death has taken place of Seamus Heaney. The poet and Nobel Laureate died in hospital in Dublin this morning after a short illness,” a statement on behalf of the family said.

“The family has requested privacy at this time.”

Heaney is survived by his wife, Marie, and children, Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann.

Funeral arrangements are to be announced later.

President Higgins said: "As tributes flow in from around the world, as people recall the extraordinary occasions of the readings and the lectures, we in Ireland will once again get a sense of the depth and range of the contribution of Seamus Heaney to our contemporary world, but what those of us who have had the privilege of his friendship and presence will miss is the extraordinary depth and warmth of his personality,” he said.

Mr Higgins, himself a published poet, described Heaney as warm, humourous, caring and courteous.

“A courtesy that enabled him to carry with such wry Northern Irish dignity so many well-deserved honours from all over the world,” he said.

Professor Fran Brearton, from the School of English at Queens University in Belfast, says she is shellshocked by the news.

Just before lunchtime today, actor Adrian Dunbar led a round of applause at the bust of Heaney in the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, while a book of condolences is to be opened in the Guildhall in Derry.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Heaney’s death is a great sorrow for Ireland, language and literature.

“He is mourned – and deeply – wherever poetry and the world of the spirit are cherished and celebrated,” he said.

“For us, Seamus Heaney was the keeper of language, our codes, our essence as a people.”

Mr Kenny said it would take Heaney himself to describe the depth of loss Ireland would feel at his death.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said Heaney’s legacy would be as one of the finest Irish poets of all time.

“His work reflected his deep love and knowledge of the Irish land and the Irish people. His poetry explained us to ourselves. In his work, the dignity and honour of the everyday lives of people came to life,” he said.

“Yet his poetry was also universal in nature, as can be seen by the wonderful tributes being paid to him by people across the globe today and by his incredible achievement in winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.”

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams says he is shocked and saddened at the news of Seamus Heaney's death.

He has described him a literary figure of huge international stature, regarded by many as the greatest Irish poet since Yeats.

Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin says today is a sad day for the country as Ireland loses one of our very best.

Mr Martin has described Seamus Heaney as "a giant of modern literature" who achieved the highest accolades and honours across the globe while never losing his connection to, and love for, the people and places of his native County Derry.

He says the fact that his poems are on the curriculum for school children on both parts of the island is a fitting tribute to the unique role and resonance he had.

Heaney's profile and the high regard he was held in was evidenced when he sat at the Queen's table for a banquet on her state visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011, the first such trip for a ruling British monarch.

Seamus Heaney meeting both then-president Mary McAleese and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II..

He was due to deliver a speech at the Linen Hall Library in Belfast next Tuesday and make an address next month at Amnesty International’s ambassador of conscience award, named after a poem he wrote for the organisation in 1985.

Those who knew him remarked on how he was renowned for always accepting invites to speak.

Patrick Corrigan, the organisation’s Northern Ireland director, said he connected not just with people in Ireland but across the world.

“Through the beauty and elegance of his writing, Seamus Heaney reminded us of the bonds which unite and our duty to uphold the dignity of all,” he said.

“Ireland has lost a legendary man of letters. The world has lost a towering giant of humanity.”

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