Strong artistic connections between Ireland and the rest of Europe have existed for more than 2,000 years, and the exchange remains valuable today, the Aosdána General Assembly heard in Dublin's Royal Hospital Kilmainham today.
As part of a special presentation to mark Ireland's presidency of the European Council, Nobel laureate Séamus Heaney told the gathering of 123 leading creative artists of how, according to the historian Tacitus, Roman general Gnaeus Julius Agricola considered an attempt to conquer Ireland. Heaney, an Aosdána saoi, cited Dante's Inferno as a strong influence on his own poetry, as well as the American poet Louis Simpson's account of the Iron Age bodies found in Danish bogs.
"In spite of Agricola’s decision to spare Hibernia the privilege of Roman arms, the traffic between Hibernia and Europa has proceeded apace, culturally as well as economically, and the exchange is both productive and ongoing," Heaney said.
Other Saoithe were involved in the special presentation on European themes; an address by Anthony Cronin, a short film (directed by Sé Merry Doyle) about the life and career of painter Patrick Scott, and a presentation (by author Garrett Cormican) on the work of visual artist Camille Souter.
Arts Council Director Orlaith McBride highlighted Ireland's 'Culture Connects, programme for the 6-month Presidency.
"As Ireland assumes a leadership role across Europe the state rightly turns to its artists to tell convincingly of who and of what we are," she said. "In the visual testaments of Patrick Scott, and Camille Souter, in the words of Seamus Heaney and Anthony Cronin, and in the music of Seóirse Bodley we look, we listen and we sense a world beyond the obvious."
Also at the General Assembly, Aosdána, elected three new members bringing its total membership to 248. Those elected were Eoin McNamee, Hughie O’Donoghue and Peter Sheridan.
Commenting on the Assembly, Minister Deenihan said "I am very pleased to see a European themed programme to this year's Assembly highlighting as it does the Irish and European artistic and cultural influences. For the new members joining Aosdána it is a wonderful accolade to be selected by a group of your peers and it is testament to the level of achievement you each have attained in your chosen arts discipline. I congratulate you and thank you for your hard work in attaining this level of excellence."