Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thank you Seamus Heaney

Thank you Seamus Heaney

On Tuesday evening the Dáil set aside its normal business to remember Seamus Heaney. The deep sense of loss and of affection for Seamus was evident in all of the contributions.

In the days after his death I wrote of my own sorrow at his passing and yesterday, speaking in the Dáil, I again expressed the great sadness that engulfed millions when we learned of his passing.

This is some of what I said:

I am honoured to have the opportunity, on my own behalf and that of Sinn Féin, to join Dáil colleagues and others in the North, including in the Assembly and in south Derry, in expressing to Seamus's widow, Marie, and their children, Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann, our profound sadness at his passing and our solidarity with them. I cannot recall any death in recent times that was felt by so many people. I know that sense of loss can only be a fraction of what his bereaved family and close personal friends are feeling.

Seoid náisiúnta ab ea Séamus. Táimid fíor-bhuíoch do Marie agus a teaghlach mar thug siad Seamus duinn. He was extremely modest, approachable and humble, and had a great sense of humour. He had a profound and humane understanding of us as a people because he was of us as a people, with all our faultlines, flaws, strengths and weaknesses. Until his death, he was the world's leading living poet in the English language…

In Long Kesh, where I was a prisoner for a time, I remember one 12 July sitting with a couple of other prisoners in a cage. We could hear the Orange drums outside on Blaris Road. To our surprise, one of our comrades started to recite, from memory, the poem Orange Drums, Tyrone, 1966:

The lambeg balloons at his belly, weighs

Him back on his haunches, lodging thunder

Grossly there between his chin and his knees.

He is raised up by what he buckles under.

Each arm extended by a seasoned rod,

He parades behind it. And though the drummers

Are granted passage through the nodding crowd

It is the drums preside, like giant tumours.

To every cocked ear, expert in its greed,

His battered signature subscribes ‘No Pope’.

The pigskin’s scourged until his knuckles bleed.

The air is pounding like a stethoscope.

I do not think any of us could make reference to Seamus Heaney without referencing the Cure at Troy. It is so true. It reads:

Human beings suffer,

They torture one another,

They get hurt and get hard.

No poem or play or song

Can fully right a wrong

Inflicted and endured. 

The innocent in gaols

Beat on their bars together.

A hunger-striker’s father

Stands in the graveyard dumb.

The police widow in veils

Faints at the funeral home. 

History says, don’t hope

On this side of the grave.

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up,

And hope and history rhyme. 

So hope for a great sea-change

On the far side of revenge.

Believe that further shore

Is reachable from here.

Believe in miracle

And cures and healing wells.

In these days of turbulence and change in the North, we should be ever mindful that a further shore is reachable from here and we should reach for it.

Thank you Marie, Catherine Ann, Christopher and Michael. Go raibh míle maith agaibh. Thank you, Seamus Heaney.

No comments: