Saturday 3 November 2007

Happy birthday to the Cruiser

Ireland's greatest living intellectual, Dr Conor Cruise O'Brien, is 90 today, and still writing. O'Brien - affectionately known as the Cruiser - was one of the first people to move the debate in Ireland away from the fantasy of a United Ireland to the reality of living with the status quo, a stance that subsequently led to the present power-sharing arrangements in Belfast (though O'Brien was initially sceptical about the Good Friday agreement). But his life, as Dean Godson recalls in today's Times, has been remarkable - favourite of Dev and Frank Aiken in pumping out propaganda for the Irish state; a terrible time with the UN in the Congo; Nkrumah's chosen vice-chancellor in newly independent Ghana; a leading light of the resurgent Irish Labour Party in the sixties; a minister who banned the IRA from RTE; editor-in-chief of the Observer; passionate supporter of Israel; a trenchant critic of illiberal social laws in Ireland; and a masterly academic spanning all from Burke to much-needed revisionist Irish history in the masterly States of Ireland. He was interviewed by the editor of the Sunday Independent last week ahead of a new volume on George Washington. Happy birthday, Conor.

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