In response to:
Conor Cruise O'Brien, 1917–2008 from the March 26, 2009 issue
To the Editors:
Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s fine appreciation of Conor Cruise O’Brien [NYR, March 26] was right to say that O’Brien was on the same side as the Reverend Ian Paisley in opposition to the Belfast, or Good Friday, Agreement of 1998—but to leave it at that gives the wrong impression. His main ally in Northern Ireland was Robert McCartney of the UK Unionist Party, whose party he joined and with whom he campaigned against an agreement that both thought would gradually stretch the union between Northern Ireland and Britain to breaking point. To McCartney’s chagrin, O’Brien then turned about, writing that the Northern Unionists/Protestants would, after all, be better off in a united Ireland—since they could negotiate an honored place and preserve their culture better than in a Britain whose politicians and media tended to think of them as people who could not give up, in Churchill’s phrase, the “integrity of their quarrel.” In that, he may have been politically irrelevant, but right.