Kathleen MacMahon: In the great Irish tradition of social mapping the funeral is a festival

Navigating the social tributaries of this densely networked nation means becoming an encyclopaedia in human form

The web of Irish history and politics is complex, but there also exists a dark web of personal relationships that’s even more important.

I was at a funeral recently. A proper, out-of-town funeral, where people sat down in the hotel afterwards for lunch and indulged the age-old tradition of mapping each other’s friends and relations. One man, in particular, had me pinned down in two seconds flat by establishing that he’d been to the same school as my husband.

“His brother would have been in my year,” he said, going on to list my husband’s cousins and uncles, ...