Arise, Dame Edna


Sir, – As the husband of a Londoner and as the father of a London-born Irish child, I am glad that Edna O’Brien is accepting her recent award from the British head of state.

At this worrying Brexit moment, I feel that the closeness of our two countries needs to be acknowledged and celebrated. If culture and literature can do that – and it wouldn’t be the first time – so be it, and more luck.

Anyone contending that Edna O’Brien is any sort of imperialist or apologist for racism has, it seems to me, not understood a single word of her peerlessly courageous body of work. To contend otherwise is to engage in a divorce from realities.

Edna O’Brien was out there, fighting for minorities and the silenced, decades before virtue-signalling became the easy stance it has now become.

We would not say to an Irish writer who won the Congressional Medal of Honour that she was complicit in America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

It would be absurd if we said to an Irish novelist who won a major literary honour in France that she was tainted by France’s shameful adventures in Algeria.

I see this honour as an acknowledgement by the British establishment, whatever that is anymore, that Edna O’Brien was right all along.

She was, and continues to be, a passionately fearless Irish writer, who dealt in truth at a time when literary lies were the currency. She paid a price for the positions she took, and nobody should ever forget it.

Edna O’Brien deserves recognition for her courage and immense literary skill, no matter from where it comes. – Yours, etc,


McCourt Chair

of Creative Writing,

University of Limerick.

Sir, – I am an Irish citizen, born in Belfast and resident there, and intend to remain so. What does Tom Cooper (April 17th) suggest I do when offered the desirable OBE, and can I find the answer in the Belfast Agreement? – Yours, etc,



A chara, – I was surprised and highly gratified to read that the British Empire is “long dead” (April 17th). Living abroad, it is not easy to keep track of all the news from home, but still I do find it rather embarrassing that the reunification of our nation managed to slip me by. – Is mise,