Conor Cruise O'Brien

Irish politician, writer, historian and academic (1917-2008)

Donal Conor Dermod David Donat Cruise O'Brien (3 November 191718 December 2008) was an Irish writer, politician, diplomat, academic and newspaper editor.


  • Skorzeny, who is now stateless, resides in Spain. I see no objection to granting a visa. Of course, if the Skorzenys come here there may be some adverse comment in the English popular press but I think we should be prepared to endure that with fortitude.
    • O'Brien lobbying to grant Hitler's favorite SS officer Otto Skorzeny residency in Ireland saying the Irish people could endure the economic hardship for doing so.
  • There were other fellow-sufferers, lower-case ones: the thousands who were either killed, maimed or bereaved by the devotees of the Irish Republic in Mr Sands's organization, the Provisional IRA. Those other dead, however, being the wrong kind, are implicitly excluded from what is seen as a celestial tête-à-tête.
    • Passion & Cunning; Essays on Nationalism, Terrorism and Revolution
  • I expected a lot of negative reactions to my critique of aspects of Irish nationalism, and I got a fiercely negative set of reactions of course from sympathisers with Sinn Féin and the IRA, that is to say, people who are so nationalist they were prepared to kill for nationalist objectives.
    • Conversations With History, April 4, 2000
  • We taught our young people hatred of England. We taught them that the Six Counties were rightfully ours: that is, that they should be ruled by Catholics.
    • Cloch le Carn
  • Irishness is not primarily a question of birth or blood or language; it is the condition of being involved in the Irish situation, and usually of being mauled by it. On that definition Swift is more Irish than Goldsmith or Sheridan, although by the usual tests they are Irish and he is pure English.
    • "Irishness", in New Statesman, January 17, 1959
    • Written under the pseudonym Donat O'Donnell.
  • Of history and its consequences it may be said: "Those who can, gloat; those who can't, brood." Englishmen are born gloaters; Irishmen born brooders.
    • To Katanga and Back: a UN Case History (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1962) p. 31
  • Man watches his history on the screen with apathy and an occasional passing flicker of horror or indignation.
    • In Irish Times, Dublin (July 15, 1969) ; as quoted in The Columbia Book of Quotations, ed. Robert Andrews, Columbia University Press (1993), p. 900 : ISBN 0231071949, 9780231071949
  • If I saw Mr. Haughey buried at midnight at a crossroads, with a stake driven through his heart – politically speaking – I should continue to wear a clove of garlic round my neck, just in case.
    • The Observer, October 10, 1982
  • The main thing that endears the United Nations to member governments, and so enables it to survive, is its proven capacity to fail, and to be seen to fail. If there is something you are expected to do, but don't want to do, or even have done for you, you can safely appeal to the UN in the comfortable certainty that it will let you down.
    • New Republic, November 4, 1985
  • I think many non-Jews don't realise the tremendous emotional heat that is involved here in the second half of the twentieth century. A heat that derives from the Holocaust. That is to say the destruction, the mass murder of the Jews in Eastern Europe where most of the Jews were. That both the Israelis and the Jews of the United States are the bereaved children of that population who were murdered. And the bond between the Jews of the United States and the people of Israel has the emotional intensity derived from that common bereavement. And that is what gives. I do understand that people resent the power of the pro-Israel lobby in this country [the US], but that power derives from that elemental basic bond of the common bereavement and the horror that is there in the background. Therefore, Jews in the United States do react strongly – and that's what makes this a very powerful lobby, and it is – they do react strongly to anything that seems to them to threaten the connection of the United States in Israel, which is Israel's lifeline. They see this as threatening. This may be an exaggerated fear, but always there is the shadow there of a possible new Holocaust. Israel overrun. The people of Israel massacred again.
    • C-SPAN (March 26 1986).
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