Conor Cruise O’Brien and the Northern Ireland conflict: formulating a revisionist position

Margaret O’Callaghan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
444 Downloads (Pure)


This article focuses narrowly on Conor Cruise O’Brien’s shaping of Irish government policy towards Northern Ireland in light of his revised assessment of the dangers he saw implicit in what he called ‘the cult of 1916’. Casting aside his former position during his career as a diplomat in the Department of External Affairs, where he had a complex role in the Anti-Partition campaign of Seán MacBride, and building at a tangent on his peculiar critique of the Rising in the essay ‘The Embers at Easter’ (1966), he formulated an analysis of Irish militant nationalism and republicanism as a contagion that could destroy the achieved state of the Irish nation. The most important articulator of a revisionist position through his essays and through States of Ireland (1972), he charted as a government minister a course that was widely unpopular at the time, but became central to a new ‘southern’ public consensus on Northern Ireland.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-231
Number of pages11
JournalIrish Political Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2018


  • commemoration
  • Conor Cruise O’Brien
  • Irish government
  • militant republicanism
  • revisionism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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