Where are the Republicans?

Just an add to all the Cruiseography including my own small memoir in Gonzo’s original thread. First, I’m taken aback at the emerging orthodoxy over the last few days, that the reappraisal of nationalism and unionism owes more to the Cruiser than anyone else. And I speak as a fan who had quite few dealings with him long ago, including helping him out a lift at a Bolton St election count, which I was proud to do. What I found chilling in the early days was TDs’ ignorance of the North generally – not just of Unionists. Only a handful of the Lynch generation had regular contact, except for Gaelic sport. I would have praised Jack Lynch himself for just about holding a constitutional line and preventing the whole Irish establishment from imploding in their own Doomsday situation over the North. In this he was remarkably stiffened by old warriors like Frank Aiken. Garret FitzGerald gave some political form to reappraisal in the “ constitutional crusade” and the New Ireland Forum, even though not a great deal was actually delivered, except for the controversial Anglo-Irish Agreement ( which O’Brien denounced as unbalanced and anti-democratic, I think wrongly) . All in all, the Republic’s political establishment preferred to sidle backwards into an accommodation with northern realities in smoke-filled party rooms and through diplomacy, rather than make O’Brien or FitzGerald- style ringing declarations. Unless I missed it tucked away somewhere, the general Republican silence since O’Brien’s death is notable, except from that oddest of champions, the otherwise very balanced and authoritative media guru Roy Greenslade

Roy’s O’Brien debunker in the Guardian is consistent with his Republican views but stands out because of its in its general isolation. Here’s a correspondingly corrosive , if by now ancient polemic against Greenslade by the pro-Tory commentator Stephen Glover who I think would still stand by his views. Mick is approvingly quoted in an Eaten By Missionaries’ rejoinder to Greenslade. I add a sad little piece picked up by Dawkins, no less, about how Roy had to bury his mother in a Protestant plot in Derry because there could be no room for her in a Catholic cemetery in Donegal. No, it’s not strictly relevant…

  • Quiet

    “Where are the Republicans?”

    Choosing not to speak ill of the death. Something the unionists on this site could learn from.

  • Brian Walker

    Quiet, An outworn piety that seems like an excuse to me. Generations of obituarists have been able to make their point without totally letting rip, if that’s your inhibition. Perhaps they’ll get round to it and comment on the commentators later. Incidentally, interesting to note that Conor is having a religious funeral.

  • Chris Donnelly

    It may be an ‘outworn piety,’ but I can think of worse things.

    Check Nuzhound over the past few days and you’ll get links to a number of republican-leaning columnists with critical pieces on O’Brien.

  • Dave

    Brian, they’re hardly going to criticise Conor Cruise O’Brien lest it be pointed out that they have accepted the arguments in support of partition that were proffered since 1920 by a litany of British-sponsored propagandists. What could they possibly condemn him for… being marginally less partitionist than they are? After all, they signed up to it, whereas he didn’t.

    No, they’ll keep their little beaks shut and hope that the censorship of Irish nationalism continues in the Republic, thereby allowing a climate of political ignorance to emerge wherein the Irish may be persuaded to dismantle their nation-state and a replica of the bi-nation state of NI to extended into the Republic at some future point (they hope).

  • jim

    no fan of the cruiser here, but shouldn’t roy greenslade own up to a conflict of interest that makes him something less than a dispassionate observer? readers will recall that in march this year greenslade was outed as a secret contributor to the sinn fein paper, an phoblacht-republican news, for many years while working as a senior editor in the times nespaper and wrote under the nom de plume, george king, a supposed pun on king george – this kind of colours his views on the cruiser doesn’t it, and leaves him open to the same charge of hypocrisy that he levels at the former labour minister, as the censorship which he rightly condemns while practised by o’brien is now enthusiastically enforced by his buddies in the provos.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Good grief, that Greenslade piece is an utter train wreck. How does drivel like that get commissioned?

  • Conor Cruise O’Brien until his death was living proof that the English establishment can spot an Irishman who is willing to bend the knee from a thousand miles. First they built him up as a saint in what was then the house journal of SIS, then they manipulated him into doing their dirty dealings and finally declared him a great man worthy of all the fine obituaries he received in the English ‘quality’ press.

    Brian Walker vigorously defends and heaps praise upon O’Brien claiming, I presume he was one of the few southerners who understood the situation in the north. Oh really, then what did he do to lift the burden from the north’s nationalist community before the lid blew off the place. Was he active in or a vocal supporter of the NICRM, did he condemn the gerrymandered Statelet and demand it be abolished, I know not.

    Or did he only become interested in the place when working class corner boys decided they had no wish to shovel unionist shit for a life time and starting kicking back, using the only vehicle to hand, the IRA, as O’Brien and his ilk had never felt the need to provide a viable political alternative to put an end to unionist chicanery.

    Perhaps someone could tell me, beyond making a bad situation worse, what did this man do to justify a full page obituary in the London, Daily Telegraph, Times, Guardian and Observer? We can but guess.

  • Henry94

    Eoughan Harris maintains that O’Brien’s opposition to the peace process was really a kind of support. He was “entering into the dialectic” thus keeping the provos honest.

    So when you’re right you’re rght and when you’re wrong then your entering into the dialectic.

    Ehen O’Brien’s supporters are tieing themselves up in shuch knots then there is hardly a need for republicians to get involved.

    The Irish middle classes were looking for a way to abandon northern nationalists and Conor Cruise O’Brien provided the intellectual justification they needed.

    That was a failed policy and was abandoned by (to his enernal credit) Garret Fitzgerald with the Anglo-Irish Agreement and later by those who took risks for the peace process.

    Of course it was all the brainchild of the real “greatest Irishman of his generation” Mr. John Hume.

    Who can forget the savage attacks on Hume by O’Brien’s followers in the Sunday Independant and elsewhere. Of course we now understand that such apperant guttersniping was just entering into the dialectic and was really support for the process. They had me fooled there for a while.

  • Dave

    “Perhaps someone could tell me, beyond making a bad situation worse, what did this man do to justify a full page obituary in the London, Daily Telegraph, Times, Guardian and Observer?”

    Well, it’s more a case of what his direct employer (Sir Tony) did and what other employers such as the Irish Times offered to do. The Irish Times case is interesting because it leaked correspondence from the British Ambassador to Ireland detailing in a letter to Whitehall his meetings with the paper’s owner who is unhappy that “authorised” pro-British material is “left out” of the Irish Times by a wayward editor and that “unauthorised” material is appearing in it. He asks the British Ambassador for guidance on how Whitehall would better help him to ensure that only pro-British material in relation to Northern Ireland would be included in the paper.

    Beyond that, an academic who regurgitates age-old pro-British propaganda can be proffered as having arrived at his conclusions via rigorous intellectual scrutiny of the arguments, thereby leading the gullible to assume that propaganda is actually genuine academia. In propping him up, they are propping up their own edifice of deception.

    It’s bit like an old ugly woman being told by a handsome young man that she is pretty. Naturally, she will not hear a bad word said against said young man thereafter. 😉

  • Dave

    Just to clarify: the Irish Times didn’t leak the details of its offer to convert itself into a British propaganda rag in Ireland. The letter from the British Ambassador to Ireland was unwittingly released by Whitehall. It showed that the Irish Times was already being used by its owner to disseminate pro-British propaganda, but that the owner could not properly control its editor and requested guidance from his British masters about how this might best be done.

  • latcheeco

    It appears Mr. Browne has lost the run of himself, and he has company. It would be naive to see the GFA as anything other than a pause for breath due to exhaustion on both sides: a break between rounds as it were (apologies for the poor pun). Hopes of indefinite or permanent hiatus on partition will prove illusiary one way or the other in the long run.
    The suggestion that republicans are all now unionists thanks to O’Brien that Browne has made is, to use your own phrase, a minor classic and is itself of Cruisian proportion. Nationalists saw Conor Cruise O’Brien as a man who spent his adult life obsessed by his own irrelevance and who, like a door to door salesman, made a career of travelling from pillar to post hocking his effort to sell out his own countrymen and exacerbate their detriment. That he did it so vociferously and consistently suggested that undernearth in the dark recesses of Cruiserdom something was rotten. His attempts at rationalising and intellectualising his position, and victim blaming, were probably as much for his personal peace of mind in justifying the unjustifiable as anything else. He made such a niche out of ingratiating himself with the Brits and in fact trying to be a Brit, that his performance was, although at times sublime, in the end just ridiculous.
    Though, to be fair, he did put acolytes like Harris in the ha’penny place. But didn’t the Brits love him for it? To Nationalists, Unionist and British praise for him now just proves the point.

  • latcheeco

    Should of course read “will prove illusory”

  • Unsentimental

    There was nothing unique, large, magnificent or great about the cruiser. Every country that ever had to struggle to gain control of its own destiny has produced the likes. When better men have endured the tyrant and suffered for conscience, the cruisers of the world have always found a way to be in demand, and to be feted and honored by the occupying powers. Vichy France was full of these types, Norway had Quisling, the US had its Benedict Arnold. History shows the true lack of worth and mettle of these people. Cruiser had academic abilities, but he served those who oppressed and persecuted his people. He earned the fine obituaries in the Brit press. He helped prolong the agony of the war in the North of Ireland by denying Irish citizens access to the realities of life there through his all embracing censorship. He has a lot to answer for.

  • Dave

    If anyone is interested in how the chief executive (and part-owner) of The Irish Times offered his paper to the British government for the purpose of disseminating pro-British propaganda among its Irish readership in relation to Northern Ireland, then Prof. Niall Meehan, head of the Journalism & Media Faculty at Griffith College, Dublin has some additional detail on it (including a link to the second letter from states that Prime Minister was informed and that he believes that the quisling may want “intelligence” to use against his wayward editor).

  • Dave

    Typo: “…a link to the second letter which states that the Prime Minister was informed…”

  • Harry Flashman

    CCO’B defended mightily the ramparts of Irish democracy when he took on the Provo fascists and their moneyman the crooked Haughey. In his life he was showered with vitriol for doing so by the same intellectual pygmies, fascists and crooks who are doing so today.

    That he was proven absolutely right in what he said about the fascists and crooks is what drove his enemies into such foam flecked rage whenever the truth of what he was saying became so obvious.

    If you’re a fan of corrupt politicians and sectarian gangsters you will not have liked Conor Cruise O’Brien and by the company you keep so shall you be known.

  • latcheeco

    Come on Flash, you’re better than that.
    “a fan of corrupt politicians and sectarian gangsters” Doesn’t this accurately describe the Cruiser and his love affair with the Brits/unionsts? He defended mightily partition which was the essence of the undemocratic in Ireland.

  • Harry Flashman

    Maybe latch, but what the Cruiser is most famous for was his outright opposition to Charlie Haughey and the Provos, when both entities were getting a more than favourable ride in Irish public life, he was right about both and it is only fair to remind Irish people about how right he was when so many Irish people were utterly wrong.

    A prophet in his own town and all that.

  • Jimmy Sands


    A little parochial perhaps. I suspect outside of Ireland he will be remembered for Katanga if anything. On the other thread I’ve linked Niall Meehan’s piece in Counterpunch (of all places)as an excellent example of intelligent criticism.

  • USA

    “Where are all the republicans”
    I would think they have more class than to speak ill of the dead. It’s such bad form.