I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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The Polariser

Philip O’Connor writes: The papers by Frank Callanan and Niall Meehan in this issue of the drb were first presented to a meeting of the Howth Peninsula Heritage Society on April 23rd this year, entitled “An evaluation of the career of Conor Cruise O’Brien”, as part of its monthly lecture series, which I was honoured to chair. The very fact that we opted for this format instead of our usual single-lecturer approach speaks volumes about the controversy any presentation on that former distinguished long-time Howth resident is bound to provoke. About 120 people attended, and the papers were followed by an interesting discussion. The chair commented that for all their divergent analyses both speakers accepted that Cruise O’Brien had undergone a remarkable transition over his lifetime, from a quite militantly left-liberal anti-imperialist position from the 1930s to the 1960s, to something wholly its opposite thereafter. But that was the extent of their meeting of minds, as Meehan argued that O’Brien’s later views contradicted and were a repudiation of his earlier guiding values, while Callanan rejected that the transition, from left to right, involved any such “dramatic inconsistency”. He pointed out that even in his younger years O’Brien had been “highly sceptical of republicanism” and argued that his left-wing views had been more straight-forwardly anti-colonialist than socialist. Contributors commented on Cruise O’Brien’s intellectualism and how this, and his dramatic changes of position, impressed many, as it certainly contrasted with what people were used to hearing from politicians in 1960s Ireland. Several recalled him as an aloof, remote figure, brooding over the cares of the world while he gazed out over the Irish Sea from his eyrie at White Water on Howth Summit. Jack Gannon disputed the elevation of “intellectualism” which O’Brien personified, while Eugene McEldowney, a former Irish Times journalist, recalled that whenever he met O’Brien while out walking – they both lived in Howth – he was struck by him as an “intensely arrogant man” who exuded a sense of superiority over those around him, a mentality that perhaps explained his ready resort to censorship when a minister in the 1970s. The temptation to censor characterises many governments determined that people be kept from knowing certain things. DR O’Connor-Lysaght said there was a “striking naivety” about O’Brien. As a student he delivered a brilliant speech to the 1937 Labour Party conference in support of a motion condemning Italy’s invasion of Abyssinia. But in a gratuitous…

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