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City’s ‘greatest living poet’ honoured

By Paul Ainsworth

THE words of South Belfast poet Pádraic Fiacc are to be immortalised in a bar named after his friend and colleague, the late writer John Hewitt.

A plaque with lines from one of Pádraic’s poems and a carved image of the man himself will be hung at the John Hewitt Bar in Donegall Street, in honour of his contribution to the city’s literary heritage.

The 88-year-old poet was presented with the plaque last week at a long-awaited official reception held at Belfast City hall, where the Lord Mayor honoured the body of work produced over the decades by the Markets native. Family and fans gathered to hear the praise for Pádraic’s writing, which touched a nerve with the establishment due to its reflections on the Troubles and the activities of the British Army. This led to him being ostracised by some in the arts community here. However last Friday’s reception finally gave him his deserved recognition as one of the city’s greatest living writers.

Michael McKernon of Multimedia Heritage, who helped organise the reception, said Pádraic was “thrilled” with the event, which featured traditional Irish dancing in tribute of one of his poems. Friday’s event also marked the poet’s birthday and he was presented with a cake.

“We had a fantastic turnout, and Pádraic himself was thrilled to be honoured in this way in his home city,” he said.

“The striking bronze plaque presented by the Mayor has the words ‘As the children beat down the dust of the world with their dancing feet’, a beautiful line which actually refers to some children Pádraic saw dancing in Botanic Gardens back in the 1970s.”

Pádraic is now a resident of a fold on the Ormeau Road having also lived in the Cromwell Road area of South Belfast.

Guests at last week’s event were given a copy of a new book of his hand-written poems, including one written when he was just 17 years old and living in New York, that is seeing the light of day in print for the first time.

Lord Mayor Niall Ó Donnghaille said: “For too long Pádraic was ignored for being outside what was accepted as the mainstream literary community.

“This was a chance for us to open up City Hall for its citizens, and I would hope that we will continue to use the venue for celebrate the people of Belfast, like Pádraic who have contributed so much to the image of where we live and who we are.”



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