Foster and McGuinness celebrate ‘ordinary man’ who inspired the world at Seamus Heaney’s HomePlace

A quote from Heaney's poem Digging
A quote from Heaney's poem Digging

The First and deputy First Minister joined the Heaney family for the opening of Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy today (Thursday).

The Executive helped fund Mid Ulster District Council’s £4.25m project, with a contribution of £980,000.

Speaking at the event, First Minister Arlene Foster praised the poet’s “contribution to the culture and life of Northern Ireland” over his 50-years of penning poetry saying she was “delighted to be here to celebrate the legacy of Seamus Heaney in this beautiful new building”.

“I congratulate Mid Ulster District Council, Anthony Tohill and all his team on the provision of this magnificent facility which is befitting of the man who enriched the lives of so many,” she added, “not just in Northern Ireland but right across the world.

“Seamus Heaney’s contribution to the culture and life of Northern Ireland is immeasurable. His published work spans over 50 years, from his first major work, Death of a Naturalist in 1966.”

A 50-year period, that she said was “also profoundly significant to all of us in Northern Ireland, bringing us to where we are now, looking forward with confidence and determination to a positive and energised future.

“I thank Marie, and the Heaney family for being here tonight and for everything you have done to help bring the project to fruition.

“The collections now on display in the HomePlace bring a new, and very personal, connection to Seamus Heaney and his work. It will become a beacon for tourists and lovers of poetry from near and far who want to see for themselves, and feel close to, what inspired him.”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he too was “honoured” to be at the launch of the building designed “to celebrate the life and legacy of a giant of Irish literature, Seamus Heaney”.

Voicing his praise of the finished project he added: “I congratulate all members of the Mid Ulster District Council, Chief Executive, Anthony Tohill, and Brian McCormick, Manager of Seamus Heaney HomePlace for their efforts in making this inspirational centre a reality.

“Seamus Heaney was a much loved son of Derry, an ordinary man with extraordinary talents and this new arts and literary centre will be a tourism magnet for Mid Ulster.

“Seamus Heaney in his work bridged the distances between countries and cultures, and between our era and past civilisations.

“It puts him at ease with classical Greek drama, and with the poetry of Sweeney Astray and Beowulf.

“Whether in his work of re-creating great literature in translation, or in his own original compositions, Seamus makes poetry powerful and accessible.

“I pay special tribute to Marie and the wider Heaney family for being so accommodating and engaged in the creation of this centre.

“Whether people arrive here with a well thumbed book of the work of Seamus Heaney or with no prior knowledge, they will leave truly inspired.

“The Executive was pleased to contribute £980,000 towards the Seamus Heaney HomePlace which will educate and entertain in equal measure and will be a resounding success.”