Cork actor and Derry Girl star goes in search of the real Brigid in TV doc

Cork actor Siobhán McSweeney, who starred as Sr Michael in Derry Girls, fronts a documentary Finding Brigid on RTE this week
Cork actor and Derry Girl star goes in search of the real Brigid in TV doc

Siobhán McSweeney, Cork actor, marks St Brigid's Day with a special documentary.

IF January seems to have lasted for 50 days already, and the cold, dark days are taking their toll, then perk up - the first bank holiday of the year is just around the corner.

Monday week, February 6, will see Ireland mark its first St Brigid’s Day bank holiday, and very timely it is too, as we usually have to wait until March 17 for the first one of the year. It’s also the first of our ten bank holidays that celebrate the life of a woman.

The occasion is marked in the documentary Finding Brigid on RTÉ1 on Tuesday January 31,  at 10pm, as Cork actor Siobhán McSweeney, of Derry Girls fame, goes in search of the real Brigid.

The programme is being shown the day before St Brigid’s Day, which falls on February 1 and traditionally heralds the first day of spring in Ireland.

Cork actor Siobhán McSweeney with Pat Storey, Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath and Kildare, filming Finding Brigid for RTE1
Cork actor Siobhán McSweeney with Pat Storey, Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath and Kildare, filming Finding Brigid for RTE1

The new bank holiday in her honour will take place on the first Monday in February each year, except where it falls on a Friday, in which case that Friday will be a public holiday.

In Finding Brigid, 1.500 years after her death, Siobhán, of Ovens, unravels the tangled threads of fact and folklore, to reveal the truth about this elusive goddess and saint, and asks why, in an increasingly secular and diverse Ireland, her popularity appears to be on the rise.

Siobhan gathers a mnásome, in a stone circle in Galway, with Herstory activist Melanie Lynch and Laura Murphy, poet and daughter of a mother and baby home survivor, who candidly reveal their motivation behind the mission to make St Brigid’s day a national holiday. Siobhán also talks to Pat Storey, Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath and Kildare, and feminist scholar Mary Condren (pictured on the cover of TV Week) about Brigid.

The process towards the bank holiday began in 2021, when Minister of State Martin Heydon submitted it as a proposal to Government. He said it would be a welcome boost for the tourism sector in a quiet time for visitors, bridging the length of time between existing public holidays on January 1 and March 17.

Brigid is considered a patron saint of Ireland and was a pupil of St Patrick. She became famous for her kindness, her mercy, and her miracles. 

In addition, she founded Ireland’s most famous mixed (male and female) monastery in Kildare. At the same time, legends about her echo the myths and legends about the three-faced Celtic fertility goddess Brigid - the goddess of war, poetry, crafts, and healing.

It is worth noting that before the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, the feast of the goddess Brigid was also celebrated on February 1.

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