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Higgins to lead mourners at funeral Mass for poet

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins will lead mourners at the funeral of Nobel Prize-winning poet laureate Seamus Heaney in Dublin.

Mr Heaney's remains were taken to the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, this evening.

It is expected that Taoiseach Enda Kenny and several members of the Cabinet, along with many leading names from the arts, will pay their respects to Mr Heaney.

A huge crowd is expected to attend the funeral Mass for the 74-year-old Nobel Laureate, which will take place tomorrow morning.

Mr Heaney's remains will then be brought to his native county of Derry for burial afterwards at Bellaghy Cemetery. He will be laid to rest in the same graveyard as his toddler brother Christopher, who he immortalised in Mid Term Break, one of his greatest poems.

The poet and playwright died unexpectedly on Friday after a short illness. He had suffered a stroke in 2006.

It is understood he needed medical treatment in the days leading up to his death after he suffered a fall outside a restaurant in Dublin.

Mr Heaney was due to speak at an event in Belfast on Tuesday night and to head the bill at the Mountains to Sea festival in Dun Laoghaire on Thursday.

Tributes have been paid worldwide to the poet described as Ireland's finest since WB Yeats. Speaking to the Sunday Independent last night, Minister for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan described Mr Heaney as an "incredible and unique talent famous the world over".

Mr Deenihan, who is set to attend the removal tonight in Donnybrook, said Mr Heaney was a humble and modest man, who was very accessible.

"He was a truly exceptional individual whose Nobel Prize was a significant achievement for an Irish writer," he said.

"He was the very elite of Irish writing and was a truly immense figure," he added.

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Books of condolence will be opened up in Dublin, Belfast and Derry on Monday for the world-renowned literary and poetic great.

The book can be signed at the Mansion House in Dublin on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Dublin Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn said it is fitting that the book of condolence be opened given Heaney's remarkable contribution to the literary world.

"I share the sense of shock and sorrow that has been expressed by so many people. He was incredibly generous to Dublin's libraries to which he made a generous donation recently. He made Dublin his home and we send our sympathies to his family at this time," he told the Sunday Independent.

The book of condolence in Belfast will be at the City Hall and in Derry at the Guildhall.

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