Northern Ireland news

President Michael D Higgins visits Seamus Heaney centre during trip north

President Michael D Higgins during his visit to the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy yesterday. Picture by Kelvin Boyes
Connla Young

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has visited a Co Derry centre dedicated to the memory of his friend Seamus Heaney.

Members of the Nobel laureate's family met Mr Higgins at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy yesterday.

The president received a tour of the centre's exhibition and was treated to poetry readings by acclaimed actor Ian McElhinney and music.

While there he paid tribute to his old friend.

“Seamus was one of the greatest Irish poets of the twentieth century and a man to whom we are indebted for his words, his achievements have left a profound imprint on Ireland's cultural landscape,” he said.

“Here in HomePlace we are again reminded of the great reach and depth of Seamus's reputation and impact.

“But we are also, in ways that are both uplifting and poignant, reminded that Seamus was first and foremost a son of Bellaghy.

“It is here that Séamus found the beat to which his poetry moved and the inspiration for his great work.”

The poet's son Michael Heaney said his family was pleased the president could attend.

“We're delighted that President Higgins has visited, not just in his official capacity, but as a personal friend and as a poet,” he said.

Sinn Féin councillor Dominic Molloy, who represented Mid Ulster District Council, said the visit was an historic occasion' for HomePlace and the district.

Mr Molloy was present in his capacity as chair of the council's policy and resources committee, with neither the DUP chair of the council, Kim Ashton, or her UUP deputy, Mark Glasgow, attending the event.

Ms Ashton said that since the start of her term she “undertook only to attend church services or remembrance services on Sundays”, while Mr Glasgow said he was unable to attend due to work commitments.

On Saturday, President Higgins had also visited Co Tyrone in an official capacity for the first time.

He carried out a series of engagements including visiting Drumragh Sarsfields GAA club and officially opening their facilities at Clanabogan Park.

He later visited the Ulster American Folk Park outside Omagh where he saw some exhibit buildings and spoke with members of staff.

The president also visited the county's GAA centre at Garvaghy to mark the re-establishment of the Fintona branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.

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