Northern Ireland news

Funeral to be held for acclaimed poet and lawyer Eibhlínn McAleer

The 51-year-old had a poem `Casting Out shortlisted in last year's Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing

POET and lawyer Eibhlínn McAleer has been described as "a good, brave light gone out too soon," following her death aged 51.

Tributes have been paid to the acclaimed poet as friends will bid farewell today through a live-stream Requiem Mass due to coronavirus restrictions.

The east Belfast poet had a poem `Casting Out' shortlisted in last year's Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing and was a popular member of the Northern Ireland literary scene.

Mrs McAleer, who lived on Upper Newtownards Road and shares a son with her barrister husband Michael, was a trained solicitor who qualified in 2007.

She worked in private practice and was a personal assistant to Northern Ireland's first female judge, Deputy Recorder of Belfast, the late Corinne Philpott QC.

The Law Society of Northern Ireland extended its deepest condolences to her family, friends and former colleagues.

Fellow writer Damian Gorman described her as "a good, brave light gone out too soon" and said at literary gatherings she was "always serious about the work, always eager to test her writing in the world and develop it".

She had been due to attend one of his workshops at the end of April, which did not take place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Katie Graden Spence, who came to prominence after walking 297 miles for suicide awareness while a Glenlola Collegiate School pupil in 2017, described her as an "incredible woman".

"She was continually inspiring me to extend my mental health work, and encouraged me persistently to publish my poetry.

"Her poetry was so heartfelt, authentic and thought provoking, and we were urging Eibhlinn to publish."

Co Antrim storyteller Liz Weir said the pair had shared "many good conversations with her, the latest just a few weeks ago".

"She was a loving and sensitive person who will be greatly missed... Sadly we cannot even be with(her family) to show our respects to a dear friend."

Deb Mohr, a writer from Canada who met her during a retreat in Northern Ireland said she was "heartbroken to learn of the sudden passing of... a beautiful soul".

"A talented writer whose words could make your heart weep, she would often reach out to me across the miles, in the middle of her night, lonely and afraid of this pandemic.

"We'd reassure each other that one day, this too shall pass."

Eibhlínn McAleer is survived by her husband Michael, son, Sam, mother Bríd and siblings Brona and Peter.

Requiem Mass will be streamed live today at 1pm from St Bernard’s Church in Glengormley, www.stmarysonthehill.online.

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