Northern Ireland

Seamus Heaney's brother supports A6 road upgrade near poet's home

Hugh Heaney believes Bellaghy will not be badly affected by the road upgrade
Image caption Hugh Heaney believes Bellaghy will not be badly affected by the road upgrade

A brother of Seamus Heaney has said he is fully behind the upgrade of the main Belfast to Londonderry road, near the late poet's native Bellaghy.

Work has begun on the A6 project which is expected to cost about £160m.

Court papers have been lodged seeking permission to challenge the upgrade, as the disputed section cuts through landscape made famous by the former Nobel laureate.

However, Hugh Heaney said their objections are without foundation.

Image caption The upgrade will involve a new stretch of dual carriageway close to the former Heaney home

"Heaney's country is there and Heaney country will be there forever," said Hugh Heaney.

"I have no objection whatsoever going where it's going, it's going through Heaney country, but it will not do Heaney country any harm at all.

"Anahorish is still there, Lagan's Road is still there, Mossbawn is still there, strand of Lough Beag is not even touched, so the A6 is doing a great job taking away bottlenecks for thousands of people travelling every day."

Image caption The A6 is the main Belfast to Derry road and is heavily used

Seamus Heaney HomePlace, a major new arts centre dedicated to the poet, will open later today.

However, ahead of the official opening in Bellaghy, his son, Chris, - who lives in Dublin - told the Irish Times that his father had been apprehensive about the road project.

"Dad had his concerns about it, which we as a family share," he said.

"I can understand the point of view of the frustrated commuter, but it's difficult to understand how you can have, on the one hand, the celebration of this particular landscape and, on the other, this going ahead."

Image caption The A6 upgrade will cover a 9 mile stretch from the Toome bypass to Castledawson

Court papers have been lodged at the High Court in Belfast seeking leave for a judicial review of the decision to proceed with part of the scheme at Toomebridge.

A judge will now decide whether the case moves to a hearing.

The route was picked after a public inquiry almost 10 years ago.

The A6 is often gridlocked at rush-hour leading to long delays for commuters.

The Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard has said he believes the planned route is the right one.

Image caption Stephen Rea helped establish the Field Day Theatre Company with Seamus Heaney in 1980

Northern Ireland actor Stephen Rea said last month that building a new road through the landscape that inspired Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney would be "desecration".

"Do you have to choose a place that has been dignified by the greatest poet we've ever had?

"Are we content that people will come here to see the locations for Game of Thrones, is that where we are placing our imaginative level? This is a great poet, we need to preserve his landscape," said Mr Rea.

Environmentalists claim the new stretch will impact important habitat for overwintering swans close to Lough Beg, near Toomebridge.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Seamus Heaney received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995

However, Hugh Heaney said he was in no doubt that his brother would be in favour of the road.

"Seamus would have thought the same thing, that it was very good.

"It takes years for these things and finally after six or seven years it's coming and people who live there are happy.

"I think the local community are all for it, I haven't met anyone in the locality who has any objections whatsoever.

"Roads can come but Heaney's country is still there and will never go away ever," he said.

Image caption Heaney was said to be inspired by the views near his home

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