Northern Ireland news

Poets Máire Mhac an tSaoi and Brendan Kennelly remembered as two of Ireland's greatest writers

Máire Mhac an tSaoi lived a "life of courage"

RENOWNED poets Máire Mhac an tSaoi and Brendan Kennelly have been remembered as two of Ireland's greatest writers.

The pair, who both had close connections with Co Kerry, died over the weekend.

President Michael D Higgins said the writers were "two great figures who were a loss to poetry".

"These are two extraordinary, important figures," he said.

Irish language poet Máire Mhac an tSaoi, daughter of Belfast-born 1916 revolutionary and later Tánaiste Seán MacEntee, died at home on Saturday night at the age of 99.

Co Kerry poet Brendan Kennelly has died at the age of 85. Picture from RTÉ

Viewed as one of the most important Irish language poets of her time, she was the first woman to be called to the Irish bar and became the first female Irish diplomat in 1947.

She was married to the writer, historian and former government minister Conor Cruise O’Brien, who died in 2008.

Poet and author Brendan Kennelly died on Sunday at Aras Mhuire Community nursing home in Listowel, Co Kerry, where he had lived for the last two years. He was 85.

Mr Higgins said Mr Kennelly, who published 30 books and taught at Trinity College Dublin for decades, had "forged a special place in the affections of the Irish people" with his public readings.

"Going around the country created huge audiences in extraordinary places for poetry," he told RTÉ.

President Higgins also praised Ms Mhac an tSaoi's "life of courage and of defying convention".

The Republic's Arts Council described Ms Mhac an tSaoi as "endlessly talented, turning her hand to so many forms of writing, from translation to criticism to her own original work".

"Her poetry, and indeed her rich, trailblazing life, have inspired new generations of poets and thinkers."

Arts Council chairman, Professor Kevin Rafter, said both writers had left behind "a tremendous legacy, both in their work on the page, and in the lives they lived".

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