Lyons pays tribute to ‘custodian of poetry’ Padraic Fiacc
On hearing the sad news of his passing Cllr Donal Lyons said:
“I am truly sorry to learn of the death of the Belfast poet, Padraic Ó Fiacc (Joseph O'Connor), at the great age of ninety four. While he had been ill for some time he was one of those great poets who unashamedly offered a unique and dissenting voice in Irish poetry and his passing is a terrible loss.
"I was honoured to participate in a reading of his work in the Linenhall Library last year as part of a worthy celebration of his long, varied and fascinating life. His poetry charts the different aspects of his life as he shifts between styles and form to reflect his world as it is changing around him.
"Fiacc himself said that his life was lived in fragments, separated by emigration, identity and conflict and it’s in his poems from the early years of the Troubles that this fragmentation is most apparent. The disaporan blend of his earlier years is replaced by sharp edged snatches of a uniquely Belfast voice, sometimes conflicting, often unsettling but always unflinching in its portrayal of the brutality of conflict. Though he called these poems his ‘ruined pages’ the depth of his empathy for all the victims of the conflict is clear.
"As Michael Longley has said Padraic Fiacc was also a ‘custodian of poetry’ in Belfast and acted as a mentor to what became known as the ‘Northern Group’ - Derek Mahon, James Simmons, Paul Muldoon and Seamus Heaney among others. This was not without personal cost however and the random sectarian murder of his close friend and fellow poet and Gerry McLaughlin in 1975, devastated Fiacc. His poems of that time are a stark and powerful confession of a man whose mental health is deteriorating amidst the Troubles and include ‘Odour of Blood’ and ‘Missa Terribilis’ two of the most directly enunciated condemnations of the violence of those years.
"I would like to pay tribute those kind people who looked after him in his later years and who promoted his work, including the late Aodán Mac Poilin, Michael McKernon, Gerald Dawe, Patrick McGarry and many others."
My comings and
Are the comings and
I am the word the wind
Pay me no mind
Though I serve beauty
And not mankind.