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Michael Hartnett was the epitome of the myriad-minded man. He would have approved of the range and variety of what is on offer in this year's Éigse, being himself a man with an endless curiosity about what makes us human, with always a goodhearted welcome for human ingenuity and imagination in all its variety.
He loved his native place with a quiet, unswerving passion, he believed in his people, he knew that his gift was nurtured and cultivated first in this quiet place, would have been touched to see himself as the cause of such riches being brought here by this Éigse named in his honour.
It is a dangerous thing, to ventriloquize for the dead, to presume to know what Michael would have thought and felt, but I knew the man and I cherish the poems and my authority here comes from love of the man, love for and admiration of his work. It was always his pleasure to salute and honour what was well-imagined and well-made, and this year's Éigse offers a programme that is rich in imagination and achievement, a wide variety of work in many disciplines that is luminous, searching, profound, soulful and achieved. I can think of no better tribute to all concerned than to say, with complete confidence, that Michael would have been enchanted to be here. I see him sweep off his cap and bow low with that Castilian flourish of his, I see the shy pride in his dark brown eyes, I see him raise a glass to dancers, poets, novelists, musicians, actors and singers - and to all who have kept faith with his profound and never-shaken belief in the life of art and of the spirit.
I raise a glass of my own to Bríd Quinn and to Limerick City and County Arts Office, to the gifted, hard-working, organising committee, to all those who host events and those who offer such an unstinting welcome, year after year to performers and visitors alike.
Éigse Uí Hairtnéide is a kind of miracle, a continuing statement in dark times that we are no mean people, that we are not yet beaten down into the clay; it celebrates imagination and all those who live and work by craft and imagination, but it makes the claim, too, that these riches of the spirit must be available to all, that we enjoy such things as a right of our amplified humanity. Hartnett, a radical democrat if ever there was one, would have approved.
Éigse Michael Hartnett runs from Thursday, April 10th - 12th
Bí linn agus fáilte
President of Éigse Michael Hartnett Literary and Arts Festival
4th March - Deadline for Michael Hartnett Poetry Award has now passed; judges Moya Cannon and Theo Dorgan are deliberating
3rd March - The Éigse Michael Hartnett 2014 Programme is now available to download as a pdf
28th February - The Éigse Michael Hartnett 2014 Programme and Guest details are now live
13th January - The Éigse Michael Hartnett 2014 Festival Programme will be available in February
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