Seamus Heaney figures in Vote Yes campaign

Seamus Heaney has lent his electronic presence to the Ireland for Europe campaign, an assembly of notables who aren’t leaving it to the politicians this time. The move to give the campaign a wider platform seems to have paid off. Tim Garton Ash the foreign affairs academic and commentator picked up on the launch event in Dublin at the weekend for a Guardian comment piece. A video reading of Heaney reading out his poem Beacons at Bealtime (a May festival) was shown, to lift the sights in the debate. It was written for the Phoenix Park ceremony to commemorate the enlarged EU of 27 during the Irish Presidency in 2004.

Beacons at Bealtaine

Uisce: water. And fionn: the water’s clear.
But dip and find this Gaelic water Greek:
A phoenix flames upon fionn uisce here….

We can see how “Phoenix” as in Park refers to clear water, not the mythical bird. For Heaney, the two meanings link up to express the common European heritage and make “new meanings..

“Move lips, move minds and make new meanings flare.”

Garton Ash displays modern British sensitivity towards the Irish campaign.

Irish voters have a very understandable allergy to being bullied by the rest of Europe into giving the “right” answer. So we, their fellow Europeans, have to be careful what we say and how we say it – perhaps especially if we speak with a British accent.

I wonder how the knock-on effect of a making a UK referendum more likely will figure in the Irish debate?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London