Now, I don’t have a strong view on this issue. But the latest proposal for to build a four-lane dual carriageway, linking the main Derry to Belfast road at Toome with the M2, will cut close to Lough Beg and Mossbawn near the late poet’s former home.
Arguably the link between Derry and Belfast, left hanging in the area for nearly 40 years, is one of Northern Ireland’s most strategically important roads in terms of linking Northern Ireland’s two largest centres of population…
Derry City’s poor land links with the outside world are one of the big legacies of a Troubles era in which mend and make do became a greater imperative than planning for the future. An upgrade is long overdue.
Weighed against that is the environmental impacts in a rare wetland environment, and that the fact that the current route goes just 50m past Heaney’s birthplace. We know Irish voters rarely put much weight on the environment, but what about culture?
As Stephen Connolly wrote in the New Statesman, the effect of the poets early writing raise the above quiet annonymous Mid ULster:
For Heaney, the centre of his world was Mossbawn and his imaginative life widened from there to Anahorish, the south Derry townland to the west of Lough Neagh which features in some of the poet’s most famous works: “Blackberry-Picking,” “Death of a Naturalist” and “Mid-term Break,” to name a few.
The poem “Anahorish” begins with a translation of Anach fhíor uisce, the Irish root of the townland’s name. It was, for Heaney, his “place of clear water,” which he called “the first hill in the world”.
There’s a campaign to raise funds to mount a legal challenge, which reached the High Court yesterday.
The minister (a young man in a hurry to make up for the slack from his predecessors) says he’s mindful of these issues, but he argues that the alternatives the department has looked at do not entirely avoid the same dangers.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty