Former minister and journalist Conor Cruise O'Brien dies


The death has taken place of the former Cabinet minister and journalist, Conor Cruise O'Brien, who was Minister for Posts and Telegraph during the Fine Gael/Labour coalition in the 1970s.

Born in Dublin in 1917, Mr Cruise O'Brien was one of the leading intellectual lights of the Labour Party during the 1960s, following a career as a civil servant in the Department of Finance and later the Department of External Affairs.

He later joined the United Nations and attracted the attention of leading figures there, before he was given a key in the organisation's difficult operation in the Congo in 1960 and 1961 by the then UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarksjold.

He developed a successful academic career later before returning to Ireland, where he became a leading player in the Labour Party in the late 1960s alongside counterparts such as David Thornley and Justin Keating.

Expressing condolences tonight, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said Mr Cruise O'Brien had been "a leading figure in Irish life in many spheres since the 1960s", displaying a wide array of talents in politics, academia and journalism.

"(He) was blessed with a strong intellect and he was a man of strong convictions," he said, adding that Mr Cruise O'Brien's "political views were not always in accordance with those of my own party over the years I never doubted his sincerity or his commitment to a better and more peaceful Ireland".

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said Mr Cruise O'Brien had made a “remarkable contribution to Irish life over many decades”.

“He was a scholar and writer of international distinction, an outstanding diplomat in the service both of Ireland and of the United Nations, and a robust and highly influential participant in the politics of our island. He was a man of undoubted courage and brilliance,” he added.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said Ireland had lost “an intellectual giant and one of the most remarkable Irish public figures of the 20th century”. He said he had “marked up a huge range of achievements during his long and varied life”.

”Up to the time of his death Conor was still a member of the Labour Party. On behalf of the Labour Party, I wish to extend my deepest sympathy to his wife Maire MacantSaoi and to his family,” Mr Gilmore added.

During his time in the Seanad and the Dail, Mr Cruise O'Brien strongly opposed the sacking of the RTE Authority for which he was roundly praised by media, though he attracted the ire of many of them subsequently when he introduced Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act.

Later, he coined the phrase, GUBU, short for 'grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented", to describe the events surrounding the arrest of double murderer, Malcolm McArthur in the home of the then-Attorney General, Patrick Connolly.

He was strongly opposed to Fianna Fail's Charles Haughey and questioned his integrity and conduct years before any evidence emerged that Mr Haughey had taken large sums from wealthy businessmen. Mr Cruise O'Brien was permanently opposed to militant Republicanism and won some major internal battles within the Labour Party on the issue, though he lost his spokesmanship on Northern Ireland to Frank Cluskey after he lost his seat in the 1977 general election.

He is survived by his wife Maire, by their adopted son Patrick, adopted daughter Margaret, his daughter Fedelma and son Donal from his first marriage. His daughter by his first marriage, Kate, pre-deceased him.