Wednesday 21 February 2018

For all our stirring legends, Ireland is no longer the heroic nation of Cuchulainn

Cuchulainn statue in the GPO
Cuchulainn statue in the GPO

There was a time, our stories remind us, when Ireland was peopled by heroes. Giants among men, in deed if not stature, whose feats remain as fresh today as they were in the first telling.

Women were a key part of our legends. No sitting about with their sewing, waiting for the warriors to come home. They were a feisty crew, from the man-eater Queen Maeve who coveted a bull and went to war over it, to Grainne's resistance to being married off to the elderly Fionn MacCumhaill – forthright, she offered herself to the handsome Diarmuid instead.

Conflicted by loyalty to Fionn, Diarmuid wouldn't touch her initially, until she teased that the water splashing her leg was more adventurous than him. This is dialogue you might hear walking through any town in Ireland on a Saturday night. The human element of such escapades continues to speak to us.

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