We use cookies to collect and analyse information on site performance and usage to improve and customise your experience, where applicable. View our Cookies Policy. Click Accept and continue to use our website or Manage to review and update your preferences.

Tributes to poet Máire Mhac an tSaoi
Diplomat Máire Mhac an tSaoi behind General Franco in Spain Pic: Courtesy DFA

22 Oct 2021 / people Print

Tributes to poet and scholar Máire Mhac an tSaoi

Renowned Irish language poet Máire Mhac an tSaoi has died at the age of 99.

Considered one of the most important Irish-language poets of her time, Mhac an tSaoi was also, in 1947, the first woman diplomat to be recruited by the Department of External Affairs through public competition. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs said in tribute that she had lived “an extraordinary life lived through extraordinary times”, and held an important place in the history of the DFA, where she served with distinction.

Her role took her to Franco’s Spain, the UN, and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

Her compelling autobiography The Same Age as the State, (O'Brien Press, 2003) recounts her republican connections as the daughter of Fianna Fáil politician Sean McEntee.

McEntee was married to the strongly nationalist Margaret Browne (1893–1976), a native of Grangemockler, Co Tipperary, who later taught Irish at UCD.


Her mother’s family included distinguished scholars and clerics. Among Máire’s uncles were Cardinal Michael Browne, who served as master-general of the Dominicans, and poet and academic Monsignor Padraig de Brún, who brought the young Máire on lengthy summer holidays to the west Kerry Gaeltacht.

She met her husband, the writer and intellectual Conor Cruise O'Brien, on a diplomatic mission in Africa. The couple adopted two children, Patrick and Margaret.

Her autobiography describes how she gave up her career to embrace motherhood and domesticity, to the strong disapproval of her father, who felt Máire was wasting her education.

Probably the leading Irish-language poet of the 20th century, Máire Mhac an tSaoi published many highly-acclaimed volumes of verse, articles, short stories and translations.

She died at the age of 99 on Saturday, 16 October.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland