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Seamus Heaney's funeral draws hundreds of mourners


Irish president and taoiseach and members of U2 are among those remembering 'great democrat' at Dublin service

Seamus Heaney was a "great democrat" who could mix with kings, presidents and the ordinary people of his native County Derry, mourners at the poet's funeral were told on Monday.

Monsignor Brendan Devlin said Heaney "could speak to the King of Sweden or an Oxford don or a South Derry neighbour in the directness of a common and shared humanity".

Devlin, who is a family friend, said the Heaney circle were suffering an "immeasurable sense of loss" over the 74-old-poet's death last week.

Rock stars mixed with presidents and prime ministers, politicians, poets and painters as about 1,000 people packed into the Heaney family's parish church in the Donnybrook district of south Dublin.

Among those filing into the Church of the Sacred Heart were the four members of U2: Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, along with their partners. They were joined by the president of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, the taoiseach, Enda Kenny, his deputy prime minister, Eamon Gilmore, and the former president Mary McAleese. Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams represented Sinn Féin at the funeral.

Other mourners included the former Beirut hostage and author Brian Keenan as well as the folk singer Paul Brady, whose songs reflected in music the concerns and pain of the Northern Ireland Troubles that Heaney wrote about in so much of his poetry.

The Hollywood star Stephen Rea and Paddy Moloney from the traditional Irish folk group the Chieftains were also in the congregation. Among others from the Irish literary world were one of his oldest friends and fellow Northern Irish poets Michael Longley.

At the start of the service the master Irish uilleann piper Liam O'Flynn played a lament as a group of Catholic and Protestant clergymen walked together into the Catholic parish church – a symbol of Heaney's own ability in life and in verse to reach across to all communities on the island of Ireland.

The chief mourners include Heaney's widow, Marie, and their children, Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann.

His brother Pat read the first reading from the Book of Ecclesiasticus while his niece Sarah Heaney read from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians.

The Catholic archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, paid tribute to the poet. Martin said he was a "great man, always a man of kindness".

"Greatness and graciousness belonged together in him," he added.

Before the tributes by the poet Paul Muldoon, one of Heaney's most famous poems, The Given Note, was read out by his friend the publisher Peter Fallon. The poem is set on the remote Blasket Islands on Ireland's south-west Atlantic coast.

Heaney was awarded numerous prizes and received many honours for his work but had recently suffered from ill health. His 2010 poetry collection The Human Chain was written after he suffered a stroke, and the central poem, Miracle, was directly inspired by his illness.

Books of condolence are being opened in Belfast and Dublin. Another opened at the Guildhall in Derry on Saturday.

Meanwhile at the All Ireland Gaelic football semi-final in Croke Park on Sunday between Kerry and Dublin more than 80,000 spectators clapped for two minutes in appreciation of Ireland's national poet and arguably the world's most renowned composer of verse.

Following the funeral Heaney's remains will be taken north across the border and into his native Co Derry, where he will be buried in the local Catholic church in Bellaghy village.

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