Maeve was a master storyteller – everyone agrees on that. But there was so much more to her: she was responsible for social change. At a time when Ireland was a theocracy in all but name, she made Irish women feel that their lives mattered and that their stories were worth telling.
However, in all the outpouring of love and praise for Maeve, one thing has been missed: I think she rescued "Irish" English. "Irish" English is very different from "English" English. The words are English (most of the time) but they've been attached to the template of the older language we spoke. "Irish" English moves to a unique, euphonious rhythm. As a result our sentences sound different. Not in a way that's easily identifiable when you're in casual conversation, but they're longer, more curlicued, oddly constructed and very beautiful.
Many nations use language simply to convey information, but it's different in Ireland. With most conversational exchanges you get an "added extra" like the free little biscuit you sometimes get with a cappuccino in a fancy coffee place.
When I was growing up, I despised Irishness. I felt our music, our television and our books were just poor imitations of what came out of Britain and America. I was all set to abandon it entirely. Then Maeve started writing her "Irish" English novels, and as far as I'm concerned she saved an entire language from extinction.
She was a beautiful and generous writer and a beautiful and generous person – it seemed that she just wanted everyone to be happy. She was our national treasure, the best ambassador Ireland has ever had and she made us so proud to be Irish