At a reception held on May 14,1998 in the headquarters of the Arts Council in Belfast, it was announced that the eminent poet John Montague would be the first Ireland Professor of Poetry. The chair was set up to mark the standing of Irish poets in this century on the world stage and to commemorate the achievement of Seamus Heaney in winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995.
Mr. Deeny told the audience drawn from the cultural, political and arts world north and south: "This is a unique development in two important respects. It is the first Chair of Poetry in Ireland. It is also the first cross-border academic Chair. It recognizes the enormous stature of Irish poetry throughout the world. The first holder should have a distinguished and substantial body of work, be acclaimed at home and abroad and be familiar in and with the island of Ireland north and south. The Trustees are fortunate and happy to have found in John Montague someone who fulfills all those criteria."
Speaking at the announcement were Donnell Deeny QC (Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ireland Chair of Poetry), John B. McGuckian (Pro-Chancellor of The Queen's University of Belfast), Professor Andrew Mayes (Vice-Provost of Trinity College, Dublin), Professor Ciaran Benson (Chairman of the Arts Council of Ireland), Professor Seamus Heaney and Professor John Montague
The Chair is set up in partnership between the two Arts Councils in Ireland, Trinity College, Dublin, the Queen's University of Belfast and University College, Dublin, National University of Ireland, Dublin.
The Chair is tenable for three years (not renewable), during which time the holder will be attached to each of the three universities for a year at a time, and will be required to be in residence at each for a period of approximately an academic term in each year. In addition, the holder will deliver three formal presentations and hold at least three other informal workshops or readings.