Age shall not wither Mna na hEireann
They're stylish, steely, smart and in their prime. Brendan O'Connor presents a sensuous selection of Ireland's sexiest older ladies
Irish women have never had to rely on youth to be sexy. Indeed, it has tended to be the opposite. Irish women tend to grow into themselves. And it tends to be as they enter their prime that their accumulated style, steel, strength, sensuality, wisdom, humour, intelligence and tolerance come together in a gloriously sexy package.
As Irish women get older they become bossier yet more welcoming, more withering yet more nurturing. They manage to get over themselves while simultaneously becoming prouder. They take no crap but they are more indulgent. As they get on, they have known Irish men; they accept them for what they are rather than what they think they should be. They don't care so much anymore and they don't want to marry us so they don't feel the need to knock out of us all those bad things that made us attractive in the first place. They just enjoy us for the messers we are. And in a sense there is nothing sexier than that: a woman who has your number but doesn't care either way.
Though maybe there is, and that is a woman who enjoys life, a woman who has lived, who has appetites, who has satisfied them, who is unashamed in her desire to enjoy her life. For men reared by women who often made a virtue of how little they enjoyed life, a woman who feels she has a right to more than the burnt toast or the smallest lamb chop is an exciting and exotic creature. The sexiest older women are independent and have a sense of entitlement, the type who feel they are worth it. They are the ones you can never pin down, the ones you can never catch, the ones who wouldn't give you an inch.
And in deference to our lawyers I should probably say that none of the women I am about to mention embodies all the above characteristics, only the ones they would like to embody. So here we go in no particular order, a small selection of Ireland's sexiest women over 50ish. If we left out any it's purely because we forgot them.
Mary Mitchell O'Connor is blonde, curvy, blowsy and seems like she'd be great crack. There's also a hint of sadness or vulnerability underneath, but one that she would be too busy taking the piss out of you to ever show except in a fleeting glance. And she takes an interest in fashion and takes chances with her clothes, which suggests something indefinable but good.
Fionnula Flanagan is strong, earthy and radical. And the acting suggests a certain neurosis and a penchant for drama that is always sexy, whatever we men might claim.
Mary Kennedy is your classic convent girl. But buttoned up and deeply religious are not turn-offs but aphrodisiacs. Who doesn't love a challenge? Mary is like every primly sexy teacher we ever had, her smile a hint of what lies beneath.
Maire Geoghegan-Quinn hung around enough colourful men in Fianna Fail to not judge any of us. She understands rogues and men who spend late nights in smoky rooms, and the hint of a Spanish look about her suggests a Latin passion simmering away there somewhere.
Barbara McMahon is that handsome outdoorsy smart girl awkward boys longed to conquer. And age is not withering her remotely.
Anne Doyle – what to say that hasn't been said already? There is that knowing look, the pout, the filthy wide-eyed innocence, the noli me tangere air of the unflappable newsreader, the megawatt smile that you know she'd make you work hard to earn.
Sinead Cusack is sexy anyway, but she is rendered sexier by the fact that she puts up with the increasingly cranky and eccentric Jeremy and clearly appreciates him hugely. Would that we would all find a woman who would stand by us through our growing orneriness. She is also a woman who has embraced an atypical family set-up, a woman of the world, a woman who doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks.
Public relations queen Rhona Blake radiates power and polish in equal measure. She has the ear of some of Ireland's most powerful men, and is well able to mix it up with them too. All this is married to an impeccable, almost bluestocking, style, an unobvious glamour. And then there's that secret ingredient – charm, and loads of it. She can be our boss any day.
Beauty queen and actress Olivia Tracey glows with health and vitality. And while sometimes we prefer a woman who doesn't look like she ever sees a gym and who is slim because of years of smoking and late nights, there is always a place for a healthy girl who would make you a smoothie afterwards.
Linda Martin wears a Dolce dress like no other Irish woman of her generation can. In Italy, where half of Linda's ancestors come from, she would be venerated as one of their timeless sex symbols. Here, she remains a national treasure and a guilty pleasure for the young dads at the panto.
Edna O'Brien. Edna would probably still be too much woman for most of us. Think what she carries in the birdlike vessel that is her elegant frame. Think of the life lived, the loves endured, the poetry in her soul. But most of all just feast your eyes on that bone structure, that fine-featured face, and listen to her beautiful enunciation. A true touch of class who is still magnetic and can draw you into instant intimacy in conversation. And intimacy is still one of the biggest turn-ons.
Ali Hewson, because she puts up with him, because she is happy sometimes to be the wife, but because she is so much more than just the wife. Because she knows how to look a little bit rock 'n' roll without trying too hard. Because of the glint in those eyes, the smile, because she is secure, because she drove a VW Golf for years and possibly still does, because she used to make him stay in a hotel to decompress for a while after tours. Because she seems to be bringing up those kids so well for kids of a famous guy. Because she lets him hang out with his mates. What's not to love? Marriage material.
Pauline Bewick. Still in incredible shape, for her age or not. And she drips sensuality, bohemia, and earthy paradise-island sexuality. You can see the power of generations of strong women flowing through Pauline. If Don Draper was alive now Pauline would be his hippy fling as he tried to understand the counterculture. Indeed, we all have something to learn from her. Even Graham Norton is intrigued.