Irish language poet Máire Mhac an tSaoi talks about studying in UCD, her writing, and experiencing life in Franco's Spain.

At the age of 16 Máire Mhac an tSaoi entered UCD (University College Dublin) to study modern languages and Celtic Studies, gaining a First Class Honours degree. A shy young woman, with hindsight she acknowledges that it would have been of benefit to her to have participated in college life more, but at that time she was unable to do so.

I missed out on a lot of the fun that I might have had.

Combining a busy life with writing poetry has never been an issue for her, as she composes a poem in her mind before writing it down. This method connects her to the poets of ancient Ireland who had an oral tradition. As she describes the process,

A poem takes me over, usually when I get the idea for a poem it's practically written.

As a woman working in the Department of External Affairs (now Foreign Affairs) her most challenging posting was to the Irish Embassy in Franco's Spain. While she loved the country and its language and poetry, the regime's culture was misogynistic and oppressive.

A terrible fear and distrust of women ran through the whole of society.

Máire Mhac an tSaoi disagrees that she has not been treated as equal to a male poet in this country. Any issues that she has come up against stemmed from who her father was,

I have never met anything except the greatest consideration and comradeship and kindness in my professional life in Ireland.

Máire Mhac an tSaoi died in November 2021.

This episode of 'Hanly's People' was broadcast on 24 November 1986. The presenter is David Hanly.