Brigid – a woman whose day has come

Sir, – There has been much talk of late of a public holiday in appreciation of those who helped keep society and the economy going during the Covid-19 pandemic. Jennifer O'Connell (Opinion & Analysis, October 2nd), while being critical of some of the dates speculated upon, thinks the idea of a new public holiday is good to "have a moment of sober reflection St Brigid's Day".

I fully agree. A new public holiday would also be an occasion to remember all those who lost their lives to the Covid virus and all those who passed away during the pandemic and who were not given a full farewell due to health restrictions.

Rather than rush into having a public holiday before Christmas, or simply importing another American tradition or inventing a new pre-Christmas shop-and-spend frenzy, I suggest making February 1st, Brigid’s Day, a new annual public holiday. Brigid and Patrick are probably our best-loved saints. St Brigid, however, has never got the full national recognition she deserves.

It is well past time to put Brigid on the same level as her male counterpart. Brigid is also a saint recognised in Wales, Scotland and England. She is someone we can share with our neighbours.


Brigid is an iconic all-island figure, a real fusion of traditional Ireland and a modern inclusive Ireland. She is an amalgam of Celtic and Christian mythology. She also taps into a deep spirituality which precedes Christianity. February 1st marks the Celtic festival of Imbolc which announces the advent of spring and brighter days. Brigid is also closely associated with the fertility of the land and the protection of animals. In the past it was customary to place a St Brigid’s cross in cattle byres. The custom is still continued by many Irish farmers.

In the various lives of Brigid she comes across as a strong and capable woman. Raising her day to a national holiday is also a welcome recognition of the equality of the feminine with the masculine in society.

Because of her very strong association with fertility and the natural world, Brigid is also the perfect patron of the ecology movement. She can become the Mother Earth figure of the awakening consciousness of the beauty and fragility of this Earth, and our human dependency on this Earth, and our interconnectedness with all the other species sharing the planet with us.

Next February will be about two years since Covid pandemic first began to emerge. Brigid was also famous for her generosity and her social solidarity. Let us mark her day as a public holiday and let it be a day of remembrance of Covid-19. Let it also be a day celebrating spring, the feminine, new life and new beginnings. – Yours, etc,


(Former minister

for foreign affairs

and justice),

Leinster House,

Dublin 2.