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Europe since 1945: An Encyclopedia - Vol. 2

By Bernard A. Cook | Go to book overview

O

O'Brien, Conor Cruise (1917-)

Irish commentator, journalist, politician, and diplomat. Few personalities have aroused such controversy in the debate about Irish nationality and the Irish question as Connor Cruise O'Brien. O'Brien joined the Department of Finance in 1942 and moved to External Affairs in 1944. In 1955 and 1956 he was the Irish ambassador to France. He was a member of the Irish delegation to the United Nations from 1956 to 1960. In 1960 O'Brien served as assistant secretary in the Irish Department of External Affairs. In 1961 he went to Katanga as the personal assistant of U.N. Secretary General Daq Hammarsbjold. Amidst the turmoil following Belgium's relinquishment of its Congo colony in 1960, Moise Tshombe, with the financial support of European mining interests, declared the mineral rich Katanga (Shaba) province independent from the new Congo state. O'Brien directed the United Nation's effort to oust European mercenaries in the service of Tshombe from Katanga and arrest Tshombe, and he and the organization came under criticism for taking sides in an internal political struggle. As a result of the controversy, O'Brien resigned from the United Nations and the Irish Foreign Service to write To Katanga and Back, an account of his role in the Congo crisis. From 1962 until 1965 he served as vice chancellor of the University of Ghana, and from 1965 until 1969 as professor of humanities at New York University.

O'Brien returned to Irish politics in 1969. He joined the Labour Party and served as Labour representative for Dublin North-East from 1969 to 1977. In the early 1970s he aroused controversy with his comments that Northern Ireland was a problem of Irish Republican Army (IRA) violence, that the two nationalities in Ireland should have the right to self-determination, and, therefore, that Northern Ireland had the right to remain apart.

O'Brien was minister for posts and telegraphs in the 1973-77 Fine Gael-Labour coalition government, with responsibility for radio and television. He reaffirmed and extended the ban against IRA and Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA, representatives appearing on Irish air-waves. The ban was lifted only in 1994. O'Brien lost his parliamentary seat in the 1977 election. Elected to the senate in 1977, he resigned in 1978 to devote his time to journalism and writing.

From 1978 to 1981 he was editor in chief of the Observer and a contributor to the Times, the Irish Times, and the Irish Independent. O'Brien asserted that the Irish middle classes were no longer interested in the republican ideal of a united Ireland. He also heightened awareness of the sectarianism of Irish society. O'Brien is an outspoken, courageous, and insightful commentator on Irish politics and current affairs.


BIBLIOGRAPHY
Jordan, Anthony J. To Laugh or to Weep: A Biography of Conor Cruise O'Brien. Dublin: Blackwater Press, 1994.
O'Brien, Connor Cruise. Parnell and his Party. Oxford: Clarendon, 1957.
---. Conor Cruise O'Brien Introduces Ireland. London: Deutsch, 1969.
---. My Life and Themes. New York: Cooper Square, 2000.
---. States of Ireland. London: Hutchinson, 1972.
---. Reflections on Religion and Nationalism. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988.
Young-Bruehel, Elisabeth, Conor Cruise O'Brien: An Appraisal. Newark: Proscenium Books, 1974.

Michael J. Kennedy


O'Brien, Edna (1932-)

Irish novelist. Edna O'Brien, born in County Clare, studied pharmacy in Dublin. She moved to London in 1958,

O'Brien, Edna

-943-

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