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Heaney and Lisbon – What Gives?

June 22, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: poet

My jaw dropped last night when I saw on the news that the Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is weighing in on the Yes side in the upcoming Lisbon Referendum rerun.
I find the temerity of the man galling for the following reasons:

  1. All during the “troubles” up North, Mr. Heaney was noticeably silent, when it behooved him, as a poet, to speak out against atrocity, and injustice, it being a poet’s obligation to do. What more important function does the poet serve in society if not to ask the “hard” questions, even if – especially if – that means putting him/herself at risk?
    Yet, now Mr Heaney sees fit to lend his considerable clout, at no personal risk to himself, to one side in what will no doubt be a very divisive rerun of the Lisbon referendum.
  2. As a citizen of this country, I find it highly objectionable that a poet of his stature should row in behind the Status Quo thereby lending it credibility, given the absolute shambles the said Status Quo has made of our country and economy in the past decade, and the contempt with which it regards the wishes of the people.
  3. Rerunning the Lisbon Referendum when a sizeable majority of the electorate voted against the Lisbon Treaty only a year ago is an insult to the electorate and makes an absolute mockery of our democracy. By siding with the Status Quo on this issue Mr. Heaney is in effect adding to the insult.

For all of the above reasons I would therefore ask Mr Heaney to kindly refrain from taking sides on this issue in an official capacity. He is, of course, entitled to give his views as a private citizen, as we all are. But to use the prestige of his poetic standing in an official capacity to bolster the campaign of one side or the other is not acceptable.

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