Northern Ireland

Padraic Fiacc: Tributes after Belfast poet dies

Padraic Fiacc

Tributes have been paid to Belfast poet Padraic Fiacc after he died aged 94.

Irish President Michael D Higgins was among those who praised his work.

President Higgins said the poet "will be fondly missed by all of us who had the privilege of knowing him".

Mr Fiacc was born Patrick Joseph O'Connor in the Lower Falls area of Belfast in the mid-1920s. His family emigrated to the United States to escape violence and tension in Belfast.

But they soon found themselves in the Hell's Kitchen area of New York City, an area rife with social problems and gang warfare.

Mr Fiacc began to write poetry whilst attending local schools, mentored by the Irish poet Padraic Colum.

He returned to Belfast in 1946, when he was 22, and soon began to publish poetry.

He won the prestigious AE Memorial Award for his poems in 1957, but widespread critical acclaim was not to follow and his work became increasingly controversial.

In the early 1970s, as the situation in Northern Ireland grew precarious, violence became the overriding theme of his poetry.

"Having experienced tragedy and loss, Padraic Fiacc was never afraid to reflect dark, deeply emotive and disturbing elements in his verse," said President Higgins, who had recently visited him.

"He courageously raised crucial questions about the relationship between violence, poetry and language. His portrayal of the Troubles was stark and revealed an honesty like no other.

"It was a unique contribution at critical cost. His empathy for the frightened and maimed individuals on either side of the divide shone through his work," he added.

'Unsurpassed'

Roisin McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said Mr Fiacc established himself as one of the most distinctive voices of his generation.

"In our long and rich tradition of poetry, he ranks amongst the best, and his place in Northern Irish literary history is assured.

"Because his honesty and drive to bear witness to his times is so direct, unflinching and uncompromising - no matter how hard these things are for us to hear - as a chronicler of the Troubles, he is unsurpassed."

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