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President Bill Clinton and Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney at The Ireland Funds 2012 Conference at which Seamus Heaney received The Ireland Funds Lifetime Achievement Award.

Vice President Biden, Ireland Funds lead U.S. reaction to Seamus Heaney’s death

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President Bill Clinton and Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney at The Ireland Funds 2012 Conference at which Seamus Heaney received The Ireland Funds Lifetime Achievement Award.

Vice President Biden and the American Ireland Fund have led the U.S. reaction to Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney’ death.

In a statement, the vice president said:

"I was deeply saddened to learn of Seamus Heaney’s death, one of the finest Irish poets to ever live. Heaney taught us that “once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme.” We have been lucky, in our lifetimes, to see that tidal wave of justice rise, and to find our hopes reflected in historic moments of opportunity. But most of all, we were lucky to have a poet with the grace of Seamus Heaney, whose simple, honest wisdom could help us better understand ourselves and the world we inhabit. I am sorry that we lost him, but grateful that his words will live on."

The American Ireland Fund released this statement:

"Across the family of The Ireland Funds, there is great sadness at the news of the passing of Seamus Heaney.  We had the privilege of recognizing Seamus with our Literary Award in 1973.  He helped us select the subsequent honoree every year since.  On the 40th anniversary of the Award in 2012, and in the presence of his good friend and admirer, President Bill Clinton, we presented Seamus with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

"Over those four decades he made himself available at both major and intimate events to promote any number of Irish cultural causes.  He was a force in the world of philanthropy as well as poetry.  So many established and emerging Irish writers and artists are indebted to Seamus for his encouragement and example."

From Hollywood to Irish government, reaction to the sudden death of Heaney has flooded in from around the world.

Heaney, one of the world’s most famous poets, died on Friday (August 30), after a short illness. He passed away at the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin, at the age of 74, his family said.

Born in Toomebridge, but raised in Bellaghy, in County Derry, he was best known for his poems such as “Digging”, “Picking Blackberries” and “When all the others were away at Mass”. His works include the 1966 debut "Death of a Naturalist", "The Spirit Level", "District and Circle" and an acclaimed translation of the old English epic poem "Beowulf".

Liam Neeson, the Hollywood star and native of County Antrim, spoke to the BBC on Friday. He said, “With Seamus Heaney's passing, Ireland, and Northern Ireland especially, has lost a part of its artistic soul…He crafted, through his poetry, who we are as a species and the living soil that we toiled in. By doing so, he defined our place in the universe. May he rest in peace."

The Irish leader Prime Minister Enda Kenny said, “For us, Seamus Heaney was the keeper of language, our codes, our essence as a people.

“He belongs with Joyce, Yeats, Shaw and Beckett in the pantheon of our greatest literary exponents."

Bishop of Derry, Doctor Edward Daly, was friends with Seamus Heaney. He said,“Seamus had a very full life. He was a very generous and gentle person and a wonderful poet. He has left a huge legacy behind him.

"He has left so much for us all to treasure and enjoy. His legacy will live on for centuries."

He added, “He wore his huge wisdom very lightly and he gave so generously of his time. He was kind and he had a very gentle wit.”

Former Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader John Hume, also a close friend of Heaney, said, "His poetry expressed a special love of people, place and diversity of life.

"That profound regard for humanity has made his poetry a special channel for repudiating violence, injustice and prejudice, and urging us all to the better side of our human nature."

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said, "Seamus was undoubtedly one of the greatest literary voices the island of Ireland has ever produced and a great ambassador for Northern Ireland.

"It is some consolation that his spirit will live on through his legacy of work and that future generations will continue to be inspired by his distinctive poetic voice."

Irish President Michael D Higgins said: "Generations of Irish people will have been familiar with Seamus' poems.

"Scholars all over the world will have gained from the depth of the critical essays, and so many rights organizations will want to thank him for all the solidarity he gave to the struggles within the republic of conscience."

Irish Arts Minister Ireland's Jimmy Deenihan said, "He was just a very humble, modest man. He was very accessible.

"Anywhere I have ever travelled in the world and you mention poetry and literature and the name of Seamus Heaney comes up immediately."

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