The Cruiser

Time to mark the passing of Conor Cruise O’Brien, one of Ireland’s most extraordinary politicians, intellectuals and journalists. He was the person who began Ireland’s long tradition of service to the UN by acting as the Secretary-General’s representative in the Katanga crisis in the Congo in the ’50’s. When I was a student in Dublin in the ’70’s, he was a Labour minister in the Fine Gael-Labour coalition. He was the person who banned Sinn Fein from the airwaves. He despised the corruption of the Charles Haughey era and he detested the moral equivocation which Ireland allowed itself in dealing with republicanism and its associated violence. He ended up an an opponent of the peace process and an advocate for Northern Unionists. A remarkable man.

And the thing about the Moving Statues? Well, Ireland went through a period of over-heated religious fervour about moving statues at Ballinspittle – indeed like the Loch Ness Monster they regularly come back to life just to keep a reasonable level of interest. Since the Cruiser’s death, I’ve been searching hard for his comment following the death of a schoolgirl in childbirth in a cemetery in – I think it was – Granard in the midlands. I can’t find it but my recollection is that he commented, ‘Well the statues didn’t move to help her’

And the dreams? Well in my own over-heated state, I’ve been waking with absolute clarity about my dreams. Black and white, I’m afraid. I woke up on Friday saying to myself that, since it was now 40 years since men went to the moon, it was surprising that it had taken so long devise a Christmas tree stand which doesn’t fall over. I also found myself at the gates of Balmoral in the early morning attempting to take a photograph – but finding my camera stuck in ‘review’ mode. Am I a closet royalist? Or am I condemned to be for ever a spectator/commentator?

And finally, today’s Sunday Times tells me that Roseanna Cunningham has set up a Facebook Group called Campaign for the Pilgrim Way [Scotland] which is attempting to confirm a route from St Andrews to Iona. I’ve joined and you should too. I might even think about cycling it when the weather improves.  Interested?


  1. The Cruiser was fascinating. One of those people in the Irish Labour Party who, in a later generation, might have been in the PDs; a social liberal rather than a social democrat?

    The Granard case was like something from a 19th century story – it was horrific.

  2. An exceptional man, indeed, was CCOB. He stood firm against violence, and, above all, against the poison of equivocation, when there was no shred of political advantage to be gained from doing so. I remember hearing a radio broadcast of his speech at a Labour Party Conference during his time as a Minister in the coalition. The Conference was debating a motion in support of ‘political prisoners’, and he simply asked, with his usual cool rationality: ‘What is a political prisoner? A person who plants a bomb in a public place, is convicted by a court of law and imprisoned: is he a political prisoner’? I can still hear the shrill vituperation that greeted this question; no attempt at argument, simply rhetoric and bluster, along the lines of ‘I never thought I’d see the day when…’

  3. I could be persuaded to have a go at that. If it is a walking path there may have to be some adjustments to the route for the velos. The obvious route is surprisingly direct east to west (according to Google Maps).


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