Conor Cruise O’Brien Has Died

Very sad news.

Conor Ryan says:

Conor Cruise O’Brien has died at the age of 91. He was undoubtedly the most courageous figure in late 20th century Ireland. Born into a family steeped in nationalist tradition, he married into another. Yet in a career that transcended the history of the Republic, he went from being DeValera’s nationalist propagandist in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs to becoming the IRA’s fiercest critic as a Labour Party Minister of Posts and Telegraphs in the seventies coalition government, and subsequently a unionist member of the Northern Ireland forum. His time in Africa saw him leading a doomed UN mission to Katanga, on which he published a memorable account, and as an early Chancellor at the national university of Ghana in the early sixties.

Behind the politics there was a formidable scholar, author and journalist: few Irish books since have matched the quality of States of Ireland; few memoirs are as brilliant as his; nobody else was as knowledgeable on Edmund Burke; and his journalism as Observer editor, and a columnist for the Atlantic Monthly, Irish Times and Irish Independent was prodigious. Perhaps he was wrong in his estimation of the potential for peace and compromise in Northern Ireland, and his hatred of Sinn Fein led him to underestimate the extent to which their acceptance of a six counties solution was a defeat for their primary objective. Yet his penetrating critiques of the despicable Charles Haughey – whose chicanery he recognised more than most in the memorable phrase GUBU (grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented) – and of militant Republicanism were a rational antidote to the self-delusional nationalism of seventies and early eighties Ireland.

We have lost one the greatest Irishmen of recent history. May he rest in peace.