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May 28, 2006

Angry McCord Vows to Shun Hain

News About Ireland & The Irish

SL 05/28/06 Angry McCord Vows To Shun Hain
SL 05/28/06 Loyalist 'Mr Big' The Brains Behind Botched Bank Bid
SL 05/28/06 UDA on brink of civil war
SL 05/28/06 Hermon Denies Plan To Quit UUP
SL 05/28/06 £10k Contract On Pal Of Slain Gerard Devlin
SL 05/28/06 Fr Troy Supports Best Plan For Kids
BN 05/28/06 Silent Tribute To Famine Victims
GU 05/27/06 Book: Seamus Heaney - The Mythmaker


Angry McCord Vows To Shun Hain

Alan Murray
28 May 2006

THE father of UVF murder victim Raymond McCord says he
won't meet the Secretary of State again even though he
still wants to meet the Prime Minister to discuss alleged
collusion between Loyalist paramilitaries and RUC Special
Branch officers.

It's believed that the Police Ombudsman will next month
announce the outcome of her own investigation into alleged
collusion between members of the UVF in north Belfast and
RUC officers..

Raymond McCord snr (above) said he is angered by the
Government's attitude to his campaign to get justice for
his murdered son.

"Tony Blair's officials have told me he can't meet me
because court cases are ongoing, enquiries are ongoing, but
that hasn't stopped him meeting the Finucane family, and
the McCartney and the Hamill families.

"I'm not saying he shouldn't have met these Nationalist
families who lost their loved ones but he refuses to meet
families from the Unionist/Protestant tradition who have
lost their sons in the same way," he said.

"I was permitted to meet Peter Hain but it came across to
me that he wasn't interested, didn't know very much about
the case and wanted me out of his office as soon as
possible so I will not meet him again."

He has already been filmed for a UTV special about his
son's murder and his allegations that the UVF man who
orchestrated the killing and possibly up to a dozen other
murders was allowed to continue to act as a Special Branch

Raymond McCord Junior, a 22-year-old former RAF operator,
was beaten to death and dumped in a north Belfast quarry in


Loyalist 'Mr Big' The Brains Behind Botched Bank Bid

Ciaran McGuigan
28 May 2006

A LEADING Portadown loyalist was the 'Mr Big' behind a
botched bank robbery that led to four of his cronies being
jailed last week.

Former LVF commander Gary Fulton (right), who was a close
associate of Billy Wright, is understood to have been the
'main organiser' referred to in court last week as four
others were jailed.

The robbery at the Northern Bank in Tandragee in October
2002 went wrong when the getaway car, which the gang had
bought a day earlier for just £130, broke down.

Judge Kevin Finnegan didn't name Fulton, but remarked that
the main organiser was not in front of the courts.

Senior security sources last night confirmed that it had
been Fulton, whose cousin Mark 'Swinger' Fulton committed
suicide in jail, who had organised the robbery.

The loyalist godfather had been quizzed by police officers
about the robbery and charged in connection with the raid.

He appeared in court a number of times, but the case
against him collapsed, though security sources remain
convinced he was the gang's ringleader.

Fulton also beat a major drugs rap several years earlier
when a jury at Wood Green Crown Court cleared him of
conspiracy to supply thousands of Ecstasy tablets.

He has previously been jailed for armed robbery.

At Belfast Crown Court last Monday, Portadown men David
Brown (23), of Jervis Street and Stewart Haire (25), of
Ormode Street were each jailed for eight years and ordered
to spend another two on probation for carrying out the bank

They were arrested after abandoning their broken down
getaway car near the Newry canal towpath.

A bag of cash, around £10,000, was recovered, along with
balaclavas, gloves and a starter pistol.

Two other Portadown men, Mark Willis (34), of Tandragee
Road and Wesley Allen (29), of Oakwood Place, were each
jailed for four years for aiding and abetting the raid.


Brother, we're in bother

UDA on brink of civil war as Shoukri mavericks stick two fingers up at terror group

Alan Murray and Stephen Breen
28 May 2006

THE UDA is on the brink of a bloody feud after five senior
figures in north Belfast refused to step down.

Andre and Ihab Shoukri, along with Alan McClean (below),
are among the five refusing demands by the UDA's 'inner
council' for them to go.

One informed source in north Belfast said a defiant message
had been returned.

"Nothing will change" was the message sent back," he said.

"If the 'brigade' has to go it alone, it will. We have
enough about ourselves to be confident and face the

There remains uncertainty within the UDA about what way the
south east Antrim 'brigade' will jump, because of its close
links with north Belfast members.

One source said that there could be developments in the
south east Antrim soon.

Added a senior source from that area: "Our brigade supports
the position of Ihab Shoukri but we will not be offering
any support to Alan McClean. North Belfast sees itself as
the youngest, hardest and most militaristic of all the
brigades and they are saying they can go it alone.

"McClean is claiming that he is benefiting the community,
but he is running the show in terms of the criminal and
drugs operations. He knows he won't get our support."

Jackie McDonald's contact with the Irish President Mary
McAleese and his friendship with her husband Martin has
long been a source of discussion within the UDA, and now it
is being used as a weapon to undermine his authority.

Many senior figures in the north Belfast blame McDonald for
instigating the move against the Shoukris.

And in an ominous comment, one north Belfast figure said:
"It's now time for straight talking. If the brigade has to
go it alone it will. South Belfast isn't going to dictate
who does what up here and what puppet should be installed.
Jackie McDonald and his pals have their agenda and we don't
think everyone goes along with it."

Despite concerns that the 'inner council's' move could
spark a feud, sources say there is broad support in the UDA
for the ultimatum to north Belfast.

But one UDA source added: "'The Mexican' (the Londonderry
leader) doesn't want to see a split but he appears to have
gone along with the south Belfast and east Belfast

"If the north Belfast brigade digs its heels in, then there
will be a major split in the organisation. If the south
east Antrim brigade backs off from this, then the whole
organisation will be well and truly split. It will be a


Hermon Denies Plan To Quit UUP

Alan Murray
28 May 2006

LADY Sylvia Hermon has moved to quash rumours that she is
set to resign from the Ulster Unionist Party over its
Assembly tie-up with the UVF linked PUP.

But her assurance that she won't desert the UUP came as the
Alliance Party warned she should not take for granted the
continuing support of its voters in her North Down

Lady Sylvia (above), who previously spoke of her "deep
distress" over the PUP move, told Sunday Life yesterday she
is determined to fight her argument from within the party.

But Alliance's David Alderdice, a North Down councillor,
had a warning for Lady Sylvia.

"Sylvia Hermon would not have been elected in North Down
last time around without Alliance Party support and while a
lot of our supporters have a great regard for her, they
would find it impossible to vote for any Unionist Party
candidate because of the current arrangement it has with
the PUP."


I'm next

£10k Contract On Pal Of Slain Gerard Devlin

Stephen Breen
28 May 2006

A NOTORIOUS republican gunman has been offered £10,000
blood money to kill the best pal of west Belfast murder
victim Gerard Devlin.

We can reveal that henchmen of Gerard's killers met with
the ex-IRA terrorist in the car park of a south Belfast pub
last month to discuss the planned hit.

Cops later warned the intended victim - who was too
terrified to be named last night - that the former Provo
intended to cause him "serious harm".

Sunday Life knows the identity of the ex-IRA hitman, but
cannot publish it for legal reasons.

The intended victim told us: "These scumbags know I was
Gerard's best friend and that's why they offered this
former republican cash to kill me.

"They also offered someone else £10,000 to murder Gerard a
few months before he was killed - they are simply at their
work again.

"I couldn't believe it when the police told me about this

"I am obviously taking it very seriously, because I know
all about the ex-republican's background. He has murdered
some people during his time."

He added: "The threat against me is just the latest in a
long line of intimidation since Gerard's murder and nobody
seems to be doing anything about it.

"These people think they are the Mafia, and, just because
they are off their heads on cocaine every weekend, they
think they are untouchable."

The man also vowed to remain in Northern Ireland: "Why
should I go anywhere?

"The only thing I have done is be friends with a man for 20

"They have been trying to blacken Gerard's name since his
murder and I can't see when this intimidation is going to

The ex-terrorist, who is also from the west of the city, is
believed to have been responsible for more than 30 killings
during the Troubles - including the murder of IPLO boss
Jimmy Brown.

Mr Devlin's friend accused the same people of being behind
the shooting of Wayne McComb, the vicious assault on Jim
Reynolds (16), the false drug-dealing allegations against
Sean Tierney and other attacks in the Ballymurphy area.

Sunday Life understands that at least 300 incidents of
intimidation have been reported to police since the Devlin

Our sources also claimed that weapons found in the City
Cemetery last week were linked to the gang responsible for
the recent wave of attacks.


Best Plan For Kids

Pauline Reynolds
28 May 2006

KIDS from an Ulster sectarian flashpoint could soon be
following in the mighty footsteps of soccer legend George

And it's a move which has been welcomed as "absolutely
marvellous" by Ardoyne priest Fr Aidan Troy.

Plans are afoot to introduce a soccer event to the streets
of north Belfast, in conjunction with the George Best

It's hoped the project - which is in its very early stages
- will help promote cross community understanding, as well
as encouraging a healthy lifestyle.

It has all come about as the result of a chance meeting
recently between Fr Troy and George's family.

They had all been attending an awards ceremony in Dublin
and got chatting over a pre-dinner drink.

Said Fr Troy: " I happened to meet George's father Dickie,
his two daughters and son-in-law and I mentioned that I
thought the Foundation was doing great work.

"One thing led to another and we just started to talk about
the possibility of doing something in the Ardoyne area," he

"I suppose you could say we're trying to build a bridge
between ourselves and the George Best Foundation.

"This area has seen a lot of violence and street trouble
and it's absolutely marvellous to be given this chance to
become involved in something that is so positive.

"It's very exciting for Ardoyne and over the summer we
might even have a little football league in north Belfast.

"Dickie and his family were so gracious when we met and I
look forward to working out details on how we go further."

A meeting is scheduled to take place between all parties
and the Irish Football Association within the next week.

George's sister, Barbara, said: "The last thing we want to
do is become involved in anything political.

"But we feel that football is a great leveller and we are
really keen to try to help give kids an alternative life.

"We have been very impressed by the work going on in the
Shankill Spectrum Centre, where they have devised a four
aside soccer team.

"That was one part of the community, so now we hope to get
involved with the other.

"Out ultimate aim is to unite our two communities through

"George would have been 100 per cent behind what we're

The George Best Foundation was set up to provide charitable
funds for research into liver disease and alcoholism, and
to support the promotion of a healthy lifestyle among young
people, through participation in soccer.

For more information on the Foundation, visit


Silent Tribute To Famine Victims

28/05/2006 - 12:19:10

An international minute’s silence will be held today to
remember the one million victims of the Famine.

The tribute will take place as the Committee For The
Commemoration Of Irish Famine Victims leads a solemn
procession from Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance to the
Famine Memorial on Custom House Quay.

Members of the Committee, dressed in peasant clothing, will
lay a wreath at the Memorial and toss red roses into the
River Liffey.

A piper will then play as a young girl sings ’Amazing

The Committee is calling on people across the island of
Ireland as well as Irish emigrants abroad to mark the
minute’s silence at 2pm.

One million died and hundreds of thousands were forced to
flee the island after the collapse of the potato harvest
between 1845-1848.

Dublin City Council boosted the Committee’s campaign to
designate an annual memorial day to remember Famine victims
when councillors approved a Labour Party motion on the
issue this week.

“The Famine was a seminal event in Ireland’s past and
dramatically changed the course of our history forever,”
Committee chairman Michael Blanch said.

“It was akin to the Holocaust for Jews or 9/11 for America
and foreign visitors can’t believe that it is not
officially recognised in Ireland.

“It only happened three generations ago and the victims
were both Catholic and Protestant, so an annual
commemoration will build bridges between the two

The Committee envisages that the memorial day would also be
a gesture of solidarity towards all people around the world
who have suffered in famines.

The Government has previously suggested that the Famine
could be incorporated into the National Day of
Commemoration – an annual ceremony to mark Ireland’s war

But the Committee said this occasion specifically
remembered dead Irish soldiers, and not civilians which
comprised the Famine victims.

It has been estimated that the Famine could have indirectly
halved the all-Ireland population as it was over eight
million people in 1845 but had shrunk to approximately four
million by the 1911 Census.

There are up to 70 million people abroad who claim Irish
ancestry – many of whom are descended from emigrants who
fled Ireland during the Famine.

The Committee has lobbied the British Government, the GAA
and the Irish Farmers Association on the issue since it was
established in 2003.

Former Riverdance star Michael Flatley has supported the

Opposition leaders Enda Kenny, Pat Rabbitte and Trevor
Sargent all support calls for an annual memorial day.


Book: Seamus Heaney - The Mythmaker

Seamus Heaney published his first collection when he was
27, he won the Nobel Prize when he was 56 and his 12th book
of poetry came out this spring. He talks to James Campbell
about growing up on a farm in County Derry, politics and
his current project, inspired by a 15th-century Scots poet

Saturday May 27, 2006
The Guardian

'There is a bluff, farmer's son homeliness about him,
partnered with an introspective, self-conscious
practitioner' ... Seamus Heaney

In 1977, Seamus Heaney visited Hugh MacDiarmid at his home
in the Scottish borders, when the great poet and
controversialist was in the final phase of life. MacDiarmid
had been overlooked by the curators of English literature:
compiling the Oxford Book of English Verse, Philip Larkin
asked a friend if there was "any bit of MacD that's
noticeably less morally repugnant and aesthetically null
than the rest?" Heaney, who has always felt at home with
Scots vernacular takes a different line. "I always said
that when I met MacDiarmid, I had met a great poet who said
'Och'. I felt confirmed. You can draw a line from maybe
Dundalk across England, north of which you say 'Och', south
of which you say 'Well, dearie me'. In that monosyllable,
there's a world view, nearly."

In a literary career that spans 40 years, Heaney's
appointed subject matter has been largely extra-curricular:
Irish nationalism, "Orange Drums", the sod and silage of
his father's 45-acre farm at Mossbawm, County Derry. In
1999, he took the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf and hammered it
into a weathered English, which sold in astounding
quantities and won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award.
However, it is "the twang of the Scottish tongue", audible
throughout his Derry childhood, particularly "over the Bann
in Country Antrim", that has given him his current project,
a modern English account of the work of the 15th- century
Scottish makar Robert Henryson. Last year, the small
Enitharmon Press published Heaney's retelling of Henryson's
Testament of Cresseid - praised by Bernard O'Donoghue in
the TLS as "a poem which is unmistakably his own" - and he
is now engaged on the same poet's witty, homely Fables,
with one eye on a new book and another on dramatic

"I read Beowulf at the Lincoln Center in New York, and a
woman said to me, 'You should do something that actors
could do'. And I thought right away of Henryson's Fables.
Billy Connolly would be the ideal speaker. I'd seen him in
the film Mrs Brown and I thought that if he stood up and
read this stuff - 'The Two Mice', for example: 'Still,
being soothed so sweetly, she got up / And went to table
where again they sat, / But hardly had they time to drink
one cup / When in comes Hunter Gib, our jolly cat' - he has
enough insinuation and intelligence to help bring it within
reach of a modern readership. These things are popular,
they're talkable, they're full of horse sense and roguery."
The limited edition of The Testament of Cresseid apart, his
Henryson exists mainly in typescript. He is planning a
recital on stage for this year's Edinburgh Festival.

The only books in the farmhouse at Mossbawm, County Derry,
where Heaney grew up in the 1940s, resided "on a high shelf
- a dictionary, an algebra and other things I don't know
what. They belonged to an aunt who had done a clerical
course and became known in the family as 'Susan Heaney, a
typewriter in London', where she had gone before the war.
The book house, for me, was my Aunt Sarah's. She had sets
of Kipling and Hardy, which she had bought as a young
schoolteacher, and which I now have." Their shared name and
initial, "S. Heaney", decorate the inside leaf, which
tickles him. "On Saint Patrick's Day, a gathering of men
would come to the house. There would be some drinks and
singing and recitation. So there was a certain sense of
ritual enjoyment, but nothing that resembled high culture,
no." His mother was "very devoted to singing and Scottish
songs, though she wasn't a singer herself", his father
"didn't particularly like music".

In "The Famous Seamus", a sometimes tart but truly
affectionate profile of Heaney that raised eyebrows when it
was published in the New Yorker in March 2000, his lifelong
friend Seamus Deane wrote that the very act of bestowing
the Celticised Christian name on a boy in Northern Ireland
was "a signal" that a family "was loyal to the Gaelic, and
not the British, account of things". This account - related
to what Heaney has called "the Catholic imagination" - is
something to which Heaney pledged loyalty in the opening
lines of his first book, Death of a Naturalist (1966),
"Between my finger and thumb / The squat pen rests; snug as
a gun", even if history has given them a more emphatic ring
than the poet foresaw. He and Deane were fellow pupils at
St Columb's College, a diocesan grammar school for boys
from the city of Derry and its surrounding farmlands. The
country Seamus was a boarder, the town Seamus a
sophisticated day boy. With a fond jab in the bumpkin ribs,
Deane remarks that the boarders talked so slowly, "Maghera
and Magherafelt ... with all their 'gh's squatting on the
wide vowels ... that sometimes you thought a sentence had
been spoken when in fact only a place-name had been".

Heaney and his wife Marie - pronounced "marry" - live in a
roomy redbrick house on Sandymount Strand, on the south
side of Dublin. The hall and living-room are hung with
paintings and oddities such as an etching by Leonard Baskin
of MacDiarmid, and a pastoral watercolour by Major Robert
Gregory, the speaker of Yeats's poem "An Irish Airman
Foresees His Death". Heaney is ruddy-faced and oddly shy -
Deane described him as "calm and sly", which hurt, "always
'well in' with those in power". "Well, fair enough," he
says. "I was head prefect." He habitually uses phrases
about himself such as "fell on my feet" and "goggle-eyed
and grateful". There is a bluff, farmer's son homeliness
about him, perennially partnered with an introspective,
self-conscious practitioner. A poet who refers to one of
his later collections with a collusive wink as "a
transitional volume" is either insufferably pompous, which
Heaney is not, or given to likeable self-mockery, which he
abundantly is. He has described himself as "an adept at
banter". His head is wholly and happily stuffed with poetry
and song fragments, which litter his conversation, getting
tangled up with Latin phrases and church references. When
the St Columb's alumnus situates in a book a prose poem
called "Incertus" - his school nickname, "with a soft
church-Latin c" - the farmer's son is careful to see that
it comes after another in which a cascade of Irish place
names, "Rannafast and Errigal, Annaghry and Kincasslagh:
names portable as alter stones", make sounds which, to the
ears of a Derry town boy, might roll out into paragraphs.

One of the most famous landmarks in Irish literature, the
Martello Tower around which Buck Mulligan flaps in the
opening pages of Ulysses, is a short hop along the coast,
and Heaney suggests making the drive to see it, bantering
all the way to the "snotgreen sea ... the scrotumtightening
sea". He jokes that Joseph Brodsky's possession of a
scrapheap Mercedes permitted him to buy the altogether
shinier Merc he is currently piloting. "I thought that if
Joseph could forgive the firm, it was okay for me to have
one too." His tributes to Brodsky, whose work is often
disdained by contemporaries (though seldom by readers of
the Russian), come frequently.

In the shadow of Joyce's Tower, sprayed by the same sea
that touched "old stately plump" as he lathered his chops
while addressing Stephen Dedalus, Heaney drops mention of
what he calls, as if sorrowfully, "the N-word", the Nobel,
which came his way in 1995, eight years after Brodsky. "I
hadn't expected it at all. There was a lot of gabble, but
at the time I was only 56. I genuinely thought, No Chance.
I knew, maybe, I was on a list somewhere, but I wasn't
thinking, well, will it come this year? Look at the people
who haven't got the Nobel Prize." Heaney, who can afford
the luxury of referring to himself as "still a bit of an
amateur", was the third in a troika of close associates to
receive the honour. "Brodsky was a completely different
case: a genius of a different order. Derek Walcott was into
his sixties. I didn't expect that thing to happen at all."

When he protests that he was on the young side, he might be
responding to a tiny voice warning of the Nobel Prize as
endgame, the full-stop to a career rather than its crowning
honour. He didn't say, with Beckett, "Quelle catastrophe",
but he did wonder: Is this it? "I had myself fenced, though
I didn't know that at the time. I had just published a
collection of essays, The Redress of Poetry; I had a book
of poems already at the publishers; and from March 1995
until October, when this thing struck, I had been engaged
on the Beowulf." When his collection The Spirit Level came
out in the spring of 1996, Heaney expected the curse of the
N-word to strike an early blow. But, "funnily enough, it
got through. And then the Beowulf. So I had a roof over my
psychic and artistic heads."

In the 11 years since, Heaney has returned to older texts
to give new power to his poetic elbow: not only the Anglo-
Saxon Beowulf (with the line, "Nor do I expect peace or
pact-keeping of any sort from the Swedes"), but also Irish
(a marvellous version of Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna's
celebration of drinking, "The Yellow Bittern"), Greek (The
Burial at Thebes), odd borrowings from Virgil and Rilke,
and now the Middle Scots of Henryson. The grounding was
laid at St Columb's, where he took A levels in Latin and
French. "When you went in, there was a choice: are you
going to do French or Greek? And you picked up very quickly
that if you chose Greek that meant you had a vocation for
the priesthood. If you chose French, that meant you opted
for the world. And with all uncertainty I opted for the

Still, his basic nourishment derives from what lay around,
in place names, farm implements, the "heavyweight silence"
of cattle - what in conversation he calls "stuff out of
County Derry from childhood, the stuff that works for me as
imagery". Preserved in the turf - in the "Bogland", the
"Fodder", the "Bone Dreams", to adapt just a few Heaney
titles - was the regional sound. He calls it variously "the
noise", "the English of the place", or, most precisely,
"the grunts of my own voice. I hate the word dialect, but
when I hit some kind of first-speech idiom, I feel safe and
I trust the writing in a different sort of way."

The liberator of the idiom for a young Ulster poet was not
Yeats - "Yeats was 18th-century oratory, almost" - but
first of all Joyce, "because every vernacular energy is
rampant in Ulysses", and second Patrick Kavanagh, author of
"The Great Hunger", who showed Heaney "the kind of bare
energy and bare speech" that immediately sounded familiar.
"Kavanagh released that Ulster vernacular into the verse.
If you heard him - and it was important for me to hear him
- he spoke Monaghan ..." He draws from his deepest voicebox
a stark imitation of the poetic elder: "'Clay is the word
and clay is the flesh / Where potato-gatherers like
mechanized scarecrows move / Along the side-fall of a

Apart from St Columb's, to which he is plainly indebted -
"at that point everybody just thought, this is a different
track" - the most influential cultural institution in the
first half of Heaney's life was the London publisher Faber
and Faber, which published his first book of poems when he
was 27. "I was utterly, utterly lucky. It's incredible what
happened to me. I'm only now realising how open the path
was. I really didn't start to write until I was 23, and it
all happened within three years. The poems that I wrote, I
started in excitement in October 1962 - I know exactly -
and by July 65 my book was accepted." In the intervening
years, he had participated in meetings of "the Group", a
loose association of writers organised by the critic Philip
Hobsbaum at Queen's University, Belfast (Hobsbaum had
gathered similar congregations in London, and went on to do
the same in Glasgow, where he died in 2005). Heaney's Group
peers included Derek Mahon and Michael Longley, whom he
describes as being "more in the swim than I was. They had
met poets. They were tuned and pitched. I sort of tuned up

Heaney has enacted the double consciousness of farm boy and
scholar in all departments of his writing. In an essay
called "Mossbawm", about the little farm where he and his
brothers slept all in a row and head to toe (he is the
eldest of nine siblings), he takes the Greek word omphalos,
the stone that marked the centre of the world, and repeats
it, "omphalos, omphalos, omphalos, until its blunt and
falling music becomes the music of somebody pumping water
at the pump outside our back door". The poem "Making
Strange" describes an incident in which Heaney picked up
the American poet Louis Simpson from the airport. "And we
stopped at a public house about 150 yards from where I grew
up. We were standing on the street at the pub and my father
came up - 'unshorn and bewildered / in the tubs of his
wellingtons' - and in a sense I was almost introducing him
as subject matter." The memory provokes the amused self-
awareness that underlies many of his jokes and asides. "Or
I could see that Simpson would see him as that."

Maintaining the pitch of "first speech" involves remaining
faithful not only in his personal relationship to language,
but also, as another honorary degree or "gong" is bestowed,
being true to himself and his background in public. "At the
end of the day, I suppose, I feel some covenant with the
... unlettered, yes. Or to put it more simply: I still have
these brothers who didn't get the 11-plus. There's one
highly intelligent brother who ought to be in charge of
something by now. He just missed the moment. My father and
mother had no sense of entitlement for their children. They
would never have rung up the headmaster, or anything like
that. So I'm not writing for them, but ever since I got up
in public to talk about poetry there was somebody like that
in the audience, and I didn't want them to get shy of the

District and Circle, which came out in April, is his 12th
book of poems. He has published collections of anecdotal
and scholarly essays and, with Ted Hughes, edited The
Rattle Bag and The School Bag, anthologies dedicated to
parading poetry as a carnival. Though just a decade older,
Hughes was, like Brodsky, a guide; in this case to the
adjoining terrains of vernacular and literary language.
"Ted had a strong sense of this Yorkshire difference,
Southern versus Northern. Think of 'The Bull Moses' - 'A
hoist up and I could lean over / The upper edge of the high
half-door'. Boom! The honest-to-goodness language on its
way, without fancy-footing. I mean I enjoy fancy-foot as
much as anything else, to listen to, but I felt like myself
when I was writing in that more hefty way."

In the early 1970s, readers became accustomed to
approaching Heaney poems with titles such as "After a
Killing", "Punishment", "The Ministry of Fear". Reviewing
the collection North (1975), the poet Ciaran Carson
labelled him "the laureate of violence - a mythmaker, an
anthropologist of ritual killing". Carson asserted that
"everyone was anxious that North should be a great book;
when it turned out it wasn't, it was treated as one anyway,
and made into an ... exhibition of the Good that can come
out of Troubled Times".

Heaney's response is to say that "when people are killing
each other round about you, you feel obligated to pay
attention", but he claims that his transformation into a
politically committed writer happened gradually and was not
opportunistic. "In the first book, there's a poem called
'Docker', which is about a bigoted, dangerous man I used to
see in the corner of a local pub. It has the lines, 'That
fist would drop a hammer on a Catholic / Oh yes, that kind
of thing could start again'. The provocations and tensions
of the place were there. In the second book [Door into the
Dark, 1969], there's 'Requiem for the Croppies', which is
about the 1798 Rebellion, when Irish footsoldiers were
killed by the English at Vinegar Hill: 'Terraced thousands
died, shaking scythes at cannon'. When I read this aloud in
the 70s - I wrote it on the 50th anniversary of the Easter
Rising - it went down as an anthem in certain nationalist
domains, but sounded very uneasy in the Unionist zones. I
think the young nationalist in me was trying to give voice
to things that the culture in Northern Ireland did not
admit. There was no official space for anything of that

As an "upwardly mobile Catholic", by then teaching at
Queen's University, part of the "access" generation, Heaney
feels he "did not have to enter into politics as a subject
matter to have a sense of myself as having political
meaning. The very fact that you were called 'Seamus' on the
back of a Faber book, where before it had been Louis
MacNeice, was all part of the thing."

Politics continued to tunnel under the poetry as the
situation got worse. Heaney's third collection, Wintering
Out (1972), takes its title from a line in a poem called
"Servant Boy", which may be read as a hint of troubles to
come: "He is wintering out ... / swinging a hurricane
lamp". The poem contains lines which might receive an
answering echo from Negro protest songs:

Old work-whore, slave-
blood, who stepped fair hills
under each bidder's eye
... how
you draw me into
your trail.

As history has slackened its wintry grip on Ireland, the
Famous Seamus has eased himself out of the infamous
laureateship and raised his head, as he put it in his Nobel
Lecture of 1995, "to try to make space in my imagining for
the marvellous as well as the murderous". There will always
be a political strand to his work: early in District and
Circle the reader encounters "Anahorish 1944", which opens
with the speaker, a neighbour of the farming Heaneys,
saying, "We were killing pigs when the Americans arrived."
But equally forcing the poem is the American invasion of
Afghanistan, and newspaper photographs "of these opium
farmers by the roadside watching the American troops going
up and down". However, the bias in District and Circle is
towards reflective works with titles such as "Planting the
Alder", "The Birch Grove" and "The Blackbird of Glanmore",
in which the poet, parking his car in the drive of a former
family home, is drawn by the presence of a blackbird back
to the death of his younger brother, hit by a car when
Heaney was 14:

The automatic lock
Clunks shut, the blackbird's

Is shortlived, for a second
I've a bird's eye view of myself,
A shadow on raked gravel

Sitting comfortably at last in the country-like kitchen of
his house on the Strand, next to a paper-stuffed annex,
Heaney reflects on his Nobel remarks: "I was thinking
specifically of the book The Haw Lantern, which came out in
1987 [the 'transitional volume' of his earlier joke].

"My favourite poem in this area is a two-line dedicatory
verse at the front of it: 'The riverbed, dried-up, half-
full of leaves. / Us, listening to a river in the trees.'
That settles it. You know? Obligation, earnest attention,
documentary responsibility - fine. But what about the river
in the trees, boy? Poetry has to be that, and it's very
hard to get there."


The Great Hunger by Patrick Kavanagh
Ulysses by James Joyce
"The Bull Moses" by Ted Hughes
Sangshaw by Hugh MacDiarmid
Less Than One essays by Joseph Brodsky

· Seamus Heaney's most recent collection is District and
Circle. He talks to Peter Florence at the Hay Festival on
Monday, 5.30pm at the Eos Marquee. Details from

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