A life less ordinary…

LAST October, Conor Cruise O’Brien told the Irish Independent: “I hope to die with a pen in my hand, but I am in no rush.” Now the writing is done. Love him or loathe him, the life of Conor Cruise O’Brien is one that had a profound influence on Irish politics – north and south – over the past half century. From his ill-fated UN diplomatic service in the Congo, to becoming a Labour TD and a minister, to his vigorous censorship of Sinn Fein, his journalism and writing, sympathy for Zionism, hatred of Irish republican paramilitarism and Charles Haughey, and even membership of the now-defunct UK Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, his life was as diverse as it was controversial. The Cruiser was also the man who gave us GUBU, short for “grotesque, unusual, bizarre and unprecedented”, and as Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said: “He was never afraid to take up unpopular positions, with the result that few ever agreed with him all the time.” How true. When the power-sharing government here fell apart in 2002, he remarked: “I’m glad to see this bloody thing crash. It’s been a horrible fraud.” And he argued that Unionists could defeat republicanism by taking their place in a united Ireland, leading to his departure from the UKUP. You can read his Wikipedia biography here, and obituaries from the BBC and Irish Times.