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Celebrating Yeats 150

There is no truth saving in thine own heart…for words alone are certain good”

The Song of the Happy Shepherd, W.B. Yeats

Yeats 150

2015 was the 150th anniversary of the birthday of William Butler Yeats, one of Ireland’s best-known and internationally-acclaimed poets. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade supported a programme of activities around the world designed to mark the occasion as celebrations were also taking place across Ireland.

Through our network of 80 Embassies and Consulates, we worked closely with overseas partners to organise and facilitate over 100 international events that celebrated the range and depth of Yeats’ work and brought Yeats’ legacy to the attention of audiences new and old across the globe. These events included readings and musical performances, exhibitions, lectures, international academic conferences and symposia, the publication of new translations of Yeats’ poetry, and prominent poetry displays on the London and Shanghai underground transport networks.

The Department’s travelling exhibition “The Life and Works of WB Yeats”, based on an exhibition curated by the National Library of Ireland, was particularly popular. It was translated into 11 languages and  displayed across five continents during 2015, with audiences from Mexico to Manila. The programme culminated in December’s worldwide recitation of ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’, in which Minister Flanagan also participated. A full report of the activities organised is available on our website

The programme of events and activities attracted extensive coverage in overseas media over the course of the year, reinforced through interviews with visiting Irish Ministers and local Irish Ambassadors. The initiative found a particular resonance on social media, with Ireland’s Ambassador to Great Britain, Dan Mulhall, tweeting a Yeats quote every day in 2015 using the #yeats150 hashtag. The Department’s efforts helped the Yeats 150 project team win the 2016 Ireland e-Government Award for Social Media thanks to the broad reach of the campaign.