The county that’s promising to bring Ireland its first ever installation of the wacky Paddy Games brought together 56 daring cyclists to pedal naked around the streets of Cork in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Co.Cork, proudly and aptly known as The Rebel County, hosted the event to roughly coincide with the Cork Cycling Arts Festival. It got underway at 5:45am, and despite the typically dismal weather conditions and half-frozen participants it was a roaring success by all accounts.

The recurring theme from the news reports, which are already in, was the encouraging reception the motley troupe of naked riders got from the general public, which was described as constantly positive and involved much hooting and cheering.

This is good, but it’s more than their nudity that the Irish public was cheering on; it was their positivity and bravado.

As the Irish Time’s Shane Hegarty remarks in this excellent column, the very concept of mass nudity marks a step forward in Irish society. Whereas just a few short years ago mass displays of public nudity were viewed with a jaundice eye, they’re now more widespread than ever before.

From University College Cork’s nude campus quad run during RAG week, to famous naturalist photographer Spencer Tunick’s nude photoshoots in Blarney and Dublin and of course nude bike trecks, it seems like everyone - or at least a lot of people - are getting naked and having a good time!

What it all points to is a welcome liberalization of a once somewhat repressed society; a subtle but perceptible shift in the public’s perception of nudity, and the welcome revelation that having a laugh is sometimes more important than following boring social norms. Best of all it’s a great and creative thing to do during a recession. Although you’d be hard-pressed to argue that it has a positive economic effect on the country, (nude cycling tourism, perhaps?) it certainly seems to have put a lot of smiles on faces, which certainly helps immensely.

Just yesterday Moody’s credit rating agency gave its weighty seal of disapproval to the flailing Irish economy, downgrading the whole country’s credit rating to a sub-optimal AA2 standard. That’s the kind of negativity Ireland is dealing with on a daily basis and perhaps this is one of the small ways which with it combats it. And if so, what harm?

If only the government were half as entertaining and good at creating diversions as the folks organizing this fine idea perhaps Moody’s dismal credit downgrade wouldn’t even make the national news, and people would have a lot more reasons to smile! Let’s hope that day arrives.