Northern Ireland news

A6 silent protest to be held at Seamus Heaney centre opening

The Seamus Heaney HomePlace Centre in Bellaghy, Co Derry
Connla Young

CAMPAIGNERS opposed to a £160m road going through an area closely linked to Seamus Heaney are planning to hold a "silent protest" at the opening of a new centre dedicated to the poet today.

High-profile figures from the world of the arts and politics are expected to join members of the Nobel Laureate's family in Bellaghy for the opening of the £4m Seamus Heaney HomePlace.

The centre is near several sites mentioned in Heaney's poetry.

Campaigners are opposed to the construction of a new four-lane carriageway close to areas that feature in his work.

The route, linking the main Derry to Belfast road at Toome with the M2, will cut through an area close to Lough Beg and Mossbawn - the poet's former home.

The house is near Anahorish, which is featured in two of Heaney's poems bearing its name.

A bus carrying campaigners is expected to travel from Belfast to Bellaghy this morning where they will be met by local protesters.

Organiser Aisling Cowan said the protest will be silent as a mark of respect for the Heaney family.

"We just want to be there to make our point," she said.

She added that campaigners were not opposed to the centre itself.

After the protest they will go on a `pilgrimage' of local sites mentioned in Heaney's poetry.

The Irish News revealed yesterday that the road plan is to face a legal challenge after papers were lodged with the High Court in Belfast.

Mr Heaney died in 2013 and is buried in St Mary's graveyard in Bellaghy.

The HomePlace project, which has been part funded by the old Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, is located on the site of a former RUC barracks on the outskirts of the village.

The opening of the centre, which will be home to some of Heaney's work, will be marked by a weekend of celebrations including a performance by singer-songwriter Paul Brady and other musicians.

The wide-ranging programme of events will also focus on one of Heaney's 12 main collections each month after the opening.

There was controversy last year after the Irish News revealed that Coleraine-based architects firm W&M Given was directly awarded the Heaney centre contract as well as eight other contracts valued at £22.75m between 1995 and 2014.

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