President pays tribute after the death of Irish poets Máire Mhac an tSaoi and Brendan Kennelly


PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins paid tribute to the death of two acclaimed Irish poets.

Irish-speaking poet Máire Mhac an tSaoi passed away yesterday at the age of 99, while Brendan Kennelly passed away today at the age of 85.

A statement from Ms. Mhac an tSaoi’s family said: “She has lived a remarkable life, at remarkable times among remarkable people.”

She was the daughter of Margaret Browne MacEntee and Seán MacEntee, the future Tánaist who participated in the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War.

She was the first Irish woman to be admitted to the bar and served in the diplomatic service for 15 years.

“Profound contribution”

Paying homage, President Higgins described Mhac an tSaoi as “one of the foremost Irish-speaking poets of the twentieth century”.

“A woman of immense talent and one of our most gifted creative writers, she has made a profound and distinctive contribution to our society in terms of literature, diplomacy and most importantly poetry,” said Higgins.

“Her fearless, powerful and intriguing personality has led her to challenge established conventions and expectations in a unique way.

“A prolific writer, she has always had an infectious passion for the Irish language and for the people of Gaeltacht.

“While in her poetry she drew on the traditions of the Celtic revival by giving voice to her own experiences, passion, skills and opinions, she made a distinctive personal contribution at a high level to Irish poetry, making d ‘she one of the most influential poets of the 20th century. “

Mhac an tSaoi published his first collection of poetry, Margadh na Saoire, in 1956 and published four others.

She has also published A Heart Full of Thought, a selection of translations of classical Gaelic poetry.

She received the O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award from the Irish American Cultural Institute, the D. Lit Celt honoris causa awarded by the National University of Ireland and was elected to Aosdána in 1996.

In 1962, she married politician, historian and writer Conor Cruise O’Brien, who died in December 2008 at the age of 91.

“Special place in the affections of the Irish”

During this time, the poet and novelist Kennelly was a former professor of modern literature at Trinity College, Dublin.

He has published over 30 books of poetry, while his epic poem The Book of Judas topped the Irish bestseller list.

His other notable works include Cromwell and Poetry My Ass.

Paying tribute to his friend, President Higgins praised Kennelly’s “special charm, wit, energy and passion”.

“As a poet, Brendan Kennelly forged a special place in the affection of the Irish people,” said Higgins.

“He has brought so much resonance, insight and the revelation of the joy of intimacy to the interpretation of his poems and to the gatherings in so many parts of Ireland.

“He did it with a special charm, spirit, energy and passion.

“Delivered from the flow of transacted life, ordinary everyday words have seen their beauty revealed to the public and, in their recovery, shared public life being celebrated.

“Brendan’s poetry is steeped in the details and texture of life, its contradictions and moments of celebration, including the ironic experiences of football and politics.”

Kennelly is survived by his brothers Alan, Paddy and Kevin, his sisters Mary Kenny and Nancy Mcauliffe and three grandchildren.

He was predeceased by his daughter Doodle, who died earlier this year at the age of 51.

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