Letters to Magill - October 1981
The view from Dr. O'Brien's glasshouse
The August issue of this journal conntained an article by Dr Conor Cruise O'Brien entitled "Miss De Valera's Grandfather Speaks", wherein the author contrasted statements made by Eamonn De Valera when out of office, with statements he made while in office, relative to the partition of Ireland and allied matters. The main purpose of the article was to seek to demonstrate that there was a marked contrast between statements made in each situation, all to the general disscredit of Mr De Valera.
But I feel that if a cautionary example of this nature is to be held up to present political leaders, a much more illuminating example of the Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome is available, which modesty would preclude the learned author from referring to i.e. his own personal record in these matters. People in glass houses. . . .
At the outset of his political career, at a Labour Party Meeting held at Crofton Hotel, Dublin on the 14th April 1969, Dr O'Brien stated that the Fianna Fail Party "was now the conservative party in the country, eclipsing Fine Gael, which had become a recessive, vestigial and superfluous conservative party." He had three years previously denounced the Labour Party itself as having been "dominated for years by dismal poltroons".
Having been elected TD in 1969" as a member of the Opposition, he denounced the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1972 as "drastic and repellent and repulsive to anyone concerned with civil liberties," adding, "I cannot possibly without utterly discrediting myself, do anyything save support a stand by our Party, which was an unanimous stand by that Party, against this Bill" (Dail Debates: 29th November, 1972).
In the same debate, Dr O;Brien took the opportunity of denouncing the use of Section 31 of the Broadcastting Act, 1960 as permitting the erosion, intrusion and destruction of the degree of autonomy legitimately and rightly possessed by RTE. He was referring to the power of the Minister for Post and Telegraphs to issue a directive under the Section prohibiting the broadcasting of any particular matter or particular class of matter, clearly an inherent power to prohibit freedom of information and freedom of opinion.
But within three months of making that speech, a general election had taken place which resulted in Dr O'Brien becoming (of all things» Minister for Posts & Telegraphs, whereupon, he proceeded to use Section 31 powers to prohibit the exxpression of the Provisional Sinn Fein policies in relation to the North, while at the same time allowing UDA spokesmen to use the R TE network unhindered. In addition, he took office in a Coalition led by the aforeesaid "recessive, vestigial and superrfluous conservative party", under the leadership of Liam Cosgrave, and was flanked in the Cabinet with a few of the "dismal poltroons" of his beloved Labour Party. (Sharp sounds of smashing glassl)
As for the iniquitous Offences Against The State Act which both he and Deputy Cooney had denounced a few months previously, the latter set out to operate the new Act to its maximum effect, with the full vocal support of its erstwhile opponent, Dr O'Brien. (Further sounds of smashhing glass!)
Another issue which Dr O'Brien was wont to speak about was the contraception issue, and when his friend Mr Cooney, as Minister for Justice, introduced a sort of milk and water Bill to reform the Law in this regard, Dr O'Brien stated that although the Bill had many defects (it did not go far enough in his view), that those, who were seeking to defeat the Bill would "among other things be treating with contempt the pleas of freedom of conscience from the Prootestant denominations thus-offering a deliberate and calculated affront to those without whose free consent unity of the people of this island will never be attainable." When the Bill was voted upon, the Leader of the Government sponsoring the Bill, Liam Cosgrave, voted against it and secured its defeat. He therefore became one of the persons who had delivered a calculated affront to the Unionists, but Dr O'Brien continued to serve fully under the Leadership of Liam Cosgrave until the Electorate eventually rejected both of them. (Oh! pure Kristallnach t!)
When this happened, Dr O'Brien the crusading socialist, took up employment in the ·most capitalist of concerns, a London Newspaper owned by an International Oil Company. He had earlier, while a professed democrat, taken up employment under Nkrumah's dictatorial regime in Ghana. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?
Finally, Dr O'Brien has spent the last decade preaching that armed force used for political ends by Irish repubblicans is indefensible, resorted : to
without mandate, and mere murder. He has oft repeated the empty and missleading incantation "You cannot bomb a million Unionists into a United Ireland". Yet again the preaching and the practice have been radically at variance, for during the previous decade Dr O'Brien, as a UNO officer, in concert with others, launnched an armed attack on the Governnment of Katanga to keep within a United Congo, in the course of which atrocities were committed by the UN troops he set in motion. He nevertheeless succeeded in bombing a million and more Katangese into a United Congo, even though the UN heads: . took the view that in using armed force for the purpose proclaimed by him he was acting in excess of authority. In other words he had no mandate!
There is one thing to be said for Dr O'Brien's glasshouse, however .. Whether you are inside looking out, or outside looking in, you can see right through it!
Ciaran Mac an Aili
The greatest contribution any poliitical party in the Republic could make to the situation in Northern Ireland would be to have the courage to recognise the principle of basic democratic majority rule.
The major parties in the South have allowed themselves to be hooked by the SDLP who, by their decision not to contest the recent by-election in Ferrnanagh-South Tyrone, have illusstrated to all right thinking people that they believe in political status being given to convicted terrorists. The Democratic Unionists are as deterrmined as ever to maintain the British connection and are convinced that the proper way to administer Northern Ireland is by devolved government. Nothing can be gained by the building of sectarian housing estates such as 'Pole glass'; we need integrated houssing, and it leaves a lot to be desired to see the SDLP and the so called 'bridge building party' the Alliance, supportting the building of such estates for political purposes.
What we require is the returning of powers to local councils so that the people's needs can be looked after in relation to housing, sewerage, water, education, etc.
Direct rule has been a disaster, but in the absence of a Devolved Governnment is preferable to 'Irish Unity'.
Councillor Ivan Davis,
Chairman, Lisbum Democratic Unionist Party