The results of his exploration of the human condition applied not just to his native Anahorish in Co Derry but to the entire world, the regional assembly near Belfast heard.
SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley recalled the words of one of masterpiece Digging and the rise of an erudite farmer's son to global fame.
"He declared that unlike his father who dug with a spade, he in the future would dig with his pen and he did that," Mr Bradley said.
"He dug, he probed, he searched, he delved and he explored the human heart, human relationships and the human condition.
"His findings had application not just to Anahorish, not just to Co Derry, not just to Ireland but to the whole of the world. He was a universal poet and he is acknowledged as such, his passing leaves a huge gap on the island of Ireland and in the literary world."
Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital last month.
Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past".
Over his long career he was awarded numerous prizes and received many honours for his work.
His musings on the Northern Ireland conflict, North, scrutinised a divided and unequal society.
Democratic Unionist MLAs Gregory Campbell and Michelle McIlveen were among assembly members who marked his death.