DUBLIN, Ireland - Maire Mhac an tSaoi, considered one of the most important Irish language scholars of her time, died on Sunday at 99.
Born in Dublin on April 4th, 1922, and named for her grandmothers, she revolutionized Irish language poetry in the 1940s and 50s.
Her poems incorporated conventional and classical forms as well as contemporary themes. According to fellow poet Louis de Paor, she spoke "to and from the intimate experience of women at a time when women's voices were largely inaudible."
After beginning her career in the diplomatic service, she became a critic, translator, and academic. She wrote under her maiden and her married name, Maire (Cruise) O'Brien.
She was the first woman in Ireland to be called to the bar and also the first woman to be appointed to the External Affairs Department through public competition.
In a statement, President Higgins said Maire was "a woman of immense talent and one of our most gifted, creative writers."
"She made a profound and distinctive contribution to our society in terms of literature, diplomacy, and above all poetry," he added.
"Her fearless, powerful and intriguing personality led her to defy established convention and expectations uniquely. A prolific writer, she had a lifelong, and contagious passion for the Irish language and the people of the Gaeltacht," The statement concluded.
She had garnered numerous honors throughout her career, including the Irish American Cultural Institute's O'Shaughnessy Poetry Award, the D. Lit Celt honoris causa award, and election to Aosdna in 1996.
She was the daughter of TD Sen MacEntee and the wife of Conor Cruise O'Brien.
In one of her beautiful poems," One Year After," she said:
The sisters are weeping -
Cries like an awl piercing the heart -
But high in the rafters
I hear the bell of her laughter
Silvered and beautiful.
I arrange my memory in readiness for the grave,
Put spices in her shroud and silver coins;
The snow is still on the cemetery ridge;
I lie down beside the body on my bed.
Her children Patrick and Margaret and her stepdaughter Fedelma will undoubtedly 'hear the bell of her laughter, silvered and beautiful.'