Heaney died after a short illness on Friday, August 30, 2013. His Requiem Mass was held at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin.
A family friend, Monsignor Brendan Devlin from Derry, was the celebrant. His co-celebrants were Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin Eamonn Walsh, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson, and Dom Mark Patrick Hederman, O.S.B., Abbot of Glenstal Abbey in County Limerick, Ireland.
The Biblical readings and prayers were read by Heaney’s brother Pat, his niece, Sarah, and his friends, the musician Barry Devlin, and the poet Theo Dorgan. The pall bearers were his sons, Michael and Christopher; his brother-in-law, Barry Devlin; and by two of his brothers.
All five of his surviving brothers – Colm, Charlie, Pat, Dan, and Hugh – were in attendance. His widow Marie and daughter Catherine Ann stuck close together. Michael Heaney told the congregation his father’s last words were a text message, in Latin, to his mother, nolli timere (“don’t be afraid”).
The ceremony also drew the Irish head-of-state and chief-of-state – President Michael D. Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny with their aides-de-camp (Colonel Brendan McAndrew and Commandant Michael Treacy) – Tánaiste (Deputy Premier) Eamon Gilmore and his wife Carole Hanney; the former President Mary McAleese, and her husband Dr. Martin McAleese; and Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisin Quinn.
It also drew representatives of Northern Ireland, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton. Archbishop Charles Brown, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, represented the Holy See.
Micheál Martin, a former cabinet minister and leader of the political party Fianna Fáil, came, as did Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein and Teachta Dála (Member of the Irish Parliament) in the Dáil Éireann (lower house) of the Oireachtas Éireann (Parliament of Ireland) for Louth. Joe Costello, Teachta Dála for Central Dublin and Minister of State for Trade & Development, and his wife Emer Costello, MEP (Member of the European Parliament) for Dublin (and former Lord Mayor of Dublin) were in the church as well.
Poets in attendance included the aforementioned Dorgan, longtime friend Michael Longley, Professor Paul Muldoon, and British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. The American poet Thomas Lynch flew in from Michigan. Muldoon, who has won both the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the T.S. Eliot Prize, gave the eulogy.
All four members of U2 and their wives and girlfriends (Bono & Ali Hewson, The Edge & Morleigh Steinberg, Larry Mullen, Junior & Ann Acheson, and Adam Clayton & Mariana Teixeira De Carvalho) and U2 manager Paul McGuinness and his wife Kathy. Adam Clayton, the band’s bassist, and his Brazilian girlfriend of a few years, Mariana Teixeira De Carvalho, married a few days later in a civil ceremony.
A former student of Seamus Heaney at Queen’s University, Gerald McSorley from Braveheart (1995) and Michael Collins, Angela’s Ashes (1999), Bloody Sunday (2002), Veronica Guerin (2003), The Constant Gardener (2005) attended the ceremony. The English-born actor Dominic West, best known for starring as Detective Jimmy McNulty in HBO’s The Wire (2002-2008) and roles in Chicago (2002), The Forgotten (2004), and 300 (2006), a friend of Catherine Heaney, came with his wife, Catherine Fitzgerald, and their infant daughter, Christabel.
Of course, Heaney’s friends and collaborators Brian Friel and Stephen Rea attended the funeral Mass. The stage actor Barry McGovern came as well, as were playwrights Professor Frank McGuiness, who adapted Friel’s play Dancing at Lughnasa for the silver screen; Tom Murphy, who is considered, along with Friel, one of Ireland’s great living playwrights; and Bernard Farrell. Fiach Mac Conghail, Director of the Abbey Theatre, where many of the plays written by these playwrights were staged, was in attendance, as well.
Claddagh Records founder Garech de Brun accompanied the novelist, playwright, and short story-writer Edna O’Brien. The mourners also included the writer Brian Keenan, whom the terrorist group Islamic Jihad held in captivity from 1986 to 1990, the artist Pauline Bewick, the painter Robert Ballagh, and the painter Anne Madden, widow of the painter Louis le Brocquy (1916-2012). Many other prominent people attended the funeral Mass, along with many fans.