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

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

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has paid tribute following the passing of two acclaimed Irish poets.

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

A statement from Ms Mhac an tSaoi's family said: "She has lived a remarkable life, in remarkable times among remarkable people."

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

She was the first woman in Ireland called to the bar and served in the diplomatic service for 15 years.

'Profound contribution'

Paying tribute, President Higgins described Mhac an tSaoi as "one of the leading Irish language poets of the twentieth century".

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

"Her fearless, powerful and intriguing personality led her to defy established convention and expectations in a unique way.

"A prolific writer she had a lifelong, and contagious, passion for the Irish language, and for the people of the Gaeltacht.

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

Mhac an tSaoi published her first collection of poetry, Margadh na Saoire, in 1956 and went on to publish four more.

She also published A Heart Full of Thought, a selection of translations from Classical Gaelic poetry.

She received the O'Shaughnessy Poetry Award of the Irish American Cultural Institute, the D. Lit Celt honoris causa award 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 passed away in December 2008 at the age of 91.

'Special place in affections of Irish people'

Meanwhile, poet and novelist Kennelly was a former Professor of Modern Literature at Trinity College, Dublin.

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

His other noted works include Cromwell and Poetry My Arse.

Paying tribute to his friend, President Higgins lauded Kennelly's "special charm, wit, energy and passion".

"As a poet, Brendan Kennelly had forged a special place in the affections of the Irish people," said Higgins.

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

"He did so with a special charm, wit, energy and passion.

"Delivered from the flux of transacted life, ordinary words of the everyday had their beauty revealed for audiences and, in their recovery, the public shared life being celebrated.

"Brendan's poetry is infused with the details and texture of life, its contradictions and moments of celebration including the wry experiences of football and politics."

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

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