Northern Ireland news


Seamus Heaney image gone from NI centenary website as year's events end

The Seamus Heaney image that has disappeared from the 'Our Story in the Making: NI Beyond 100' website

A PORTRAIT of Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney has been removed from the website marking Northern Ireland’s centenary.

It emerged as it was confirmed that no more public events are planned to mark 100 years since partition.

The use of the painting of the Co Derry-born poet by Tai Shan Schierenberg sparked controversy last year when it was selected to promote events linked to the centenary of the state.

It later emerged that the family of globally-acclaimed poet, who was born into a rural Catholic family in Bellaghy, were not asked by for permission for the portrait to be used.

At the time SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described it a “cynical attempt” to reduce Mr Heaney’s image to a “branding tool to promote that narrative about partition”.

But as the year marking a century since the creation of Northern Ireland draws to close, it has emerged that the controversial image has disappeared from the ‘Our Story in the Making: NI Beyond 100’ website.

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO), which runs the website, has not commented on the image’s removal but officials have suggested the site’s content is continuously refreshed.

However, it has been confirmed that the series of public concerts and engagements aimed at marking 100 years since the creation of Northern Ireland following partition in 1921 has concluded.

The last notable event was on December 6 when the children’s book ‘Our Wee Place’ was launched, while three days later the Centenary Forum, a panel assembled to advise on the year’s events, met for the final time.

Giving an assessment of centenary activities over the past 12 months, an NIO spokesperson said: “Over the past year, the centenary programme has reached millions of people worldwide and delivered positive initiatives for Northern Ireland’s young people, businesses, community groups, artists, the environment, sport and more.

“Our programme has been one of hope, optimism, inclusivity and reflection, as we delivered 21 programme events and supported 20 partners to deliver 74 projects. Through our programmes we have showcased Northern Ireland’s people, places and products on the world stage, offering positive, life-changing opportunities.”

While the past year was supposed to provide an opportunity to mark Northern Ireland’s past successes, the planned celebrations became mired in controversy from the off with the row over the Heaney portrait.

Other episodes relating to the centenary that also played out badly included a plan to erect a stone monument in the grounds of the Stormont estate.

The DUP, Ulster Unionists and TUV made the request to the assembly commission, only for the proposal to be reportedly “vetoed” by Sinn Féin.

An inter-denominational church service at St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh in October also proved contentious after President Michael D Higgins refused to attend after claiming the event had been politicised.

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