Nuair a bhíonn an cat amuigh, bíonn an luch ag rince.

Nuair a bhíonn an cat amuigh, bíonn an luch ag rince.

When the cat is outside, the mouse does be dancing.

Note: The English language parallel is “When the cat’s away, the mice will play”. Notice that Irish mice don’t just play – they dance (although the seanfhocal does not dare tread into the political minefield of specifying whether mice prefer céilí or set dances).

Ag dul chun dlí leis an ndiabhal is an chúirt i n-ifreann.

Ag dul chun dlí leis an ndiabhal is an chúirt i n-ifreann.

Going to the law with the devil and the court is in hell.

Note: “Going to the law with the devil” was a common metaphor for the system of jurisprudence in Ireland when she was under British rule. Until the 1840’s, most people in the countryside spoke Irish exclusively. The English language was indigenous to the cities only. Being an agrarian economy, Ireland was a country where most of her citizens lived in the countryside. In other words, most peoples’ only tongue was Irish. However, the British installed a legal system where the proceedings were exclusively in English. Thus, any accused Irish defendants found themselves being charged, tried, and convicted in a foreign tongue. Since most could not afford to hire an English-speaking barrister, most would never know why they were imprisoned. The Penal Laws only made the situation worse.

However, there were rare occasions when the Irish successfully defended themselves. The author had a distant cousin, fadó, fadó, (long, long ago) who was walking by the landlord’s castle one day when he smelled the succulent aroma of His Lordship’s breakfast being cooked. He lingered to savor the sweet smell of sausages sizzling in the mouth-watering company of eggs and biscuits. His Honor, the Lord of the Manor, spied the wretch standing stupefied near his kitchen. He asked the cook who the man was and what he was doing. She told His Lordship that he was just one of his tenants vicariously enjoying His Lordship’s breakfast. Then the landlord sent his tenant an invoice for the pleasure.

The tenant refused to pay and was dragged into court. Knowing the danger of the English court, the tenant went begging his friends, relations, and all the other tenants for money to pay a British barrister to defend him. He collected a tidy pile of pennies and half-pennies and put them into a small purse made of pig skin. With it, he got himself a first-rate defender.

The plaintiff’s counsel argued before the local magistrate that his client had provided a service to the tenant. He had given his tenant a measure of joy that now required a measure of payment.

The defendant’s counsel called the landlord to the stand. Throwing the pig’s skin purse full of pennies and half-pennies on the table before him, the lawyer asked, “Is this the recompense you seek?”

“It is,” says the landlord.

“And does the sound of this give you pleasure?” The lawyer shook the purse, clinking the coins inside.

“It does,” says the landlord.

Whereupon, the lawyer petitioned the magistrate that his client’s payment had been made in full. The landlord had given his tenant a measure of joy. Now the tenant has given the landlord a like measure of joy. The debt is paid in kind. The judge agreed. Some thought the tenant had got out of hell by hiring a better devil.