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Conor Cruise O'Brien Centenary Symposium

Thursday, 2 November – Friday, 3 November 2017

Conor Cruise O'Brien Centenary Symposium

3rd November 2017 is the centenary of the birth of Conor Cruise O’Brien (1917-2017), one of Trinity's most distinguished graduates, and perhaps Ireland’s leading public intellectual of the past half-century. To commemorate his life and work, the Trinity Long Room Hub is hosting a two-day symposium exploring the impact of his various roles on literary criticism, historiography, diplomacy, and politics at home and on the world stage.

There is also a public lecture ' Conor Cruise O'Brien: A Centennial Appraisal' on the 2nd Nov at 7pm that will be opened by Trinity's Chancellor and former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson and will include a paper 'Conor Cruise O'Brien, a centennial appraisal' by Frank Callanan, S.C. and author of The Parnell Split.
Register here for this evening discussion lecture 
DAY 1: Thursday November 2nd

9.30am – 9.40am: Welcome & Opening – Patrick Prendergast, Provost, Trinity College Dublin

9.40am – 11.15am, Panel One: Conor Cruise O’Brien and the Writing of History

Roy Foster, Emeritus Professor of Irish History, University of Oxford, and Professor of Irish History and Literature, Queen Mary University of London: ‘The Parnellism of Conor Cruise O’Brien’

Paul Bew, Professor of Irish Politics, Queens University Belfast, and Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, UK: ‘Channelling Burke in the 1990s’

Donald Akenson, Douglas Professor Canadian and Irish History, Queen’s University, Canada:

‘The Tracks and Tracts of Conor’s Own History’

Chair: Eunan O’Halpin, Bank of Ireland Professor of Contemporary Irish History, Trinity College Dublin Director of the Trinity Centre for Contemporary Irish History

Coffee Break

11.30am – 1pm, Panel Two: Writers and Politics

David Rieff, Fellow, New York Institute for the Humanities, NYU: ‘Conor Cruise O’Brien and the Aporias of Collective Memory’

Max McGuinness, Completing Doctoral research, Columbia University: ‘Whatever Happened to Conor Cruise O’Brien’s Camus?’

Marion Kelly, Completing Doctoral research, Trinity College Dublin: ‘Conor Cruise O’Brien: A Rebel with a Cause’

Chair: W.J. McCormack, Literary Historian, Author and Critic


1pm – 2pm: Lunch



2pm – 3.15pm, Panel Three: ‘To Katanga and Back’ – UN & the Congo

Michael Kennedy, Executive Editor, Documents on Irish Foreign Policy: ‘Cover-up in the Congo? Deconstructing Conor Cruise O’Brien’s ‘To Katanga and Back’’

Noel Dorr, Former Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs: ‘Ireland, Conor, and the UN’

Chair: Kate O’Malley, Assistant Editor, Documents on Irish Foreign Policy, Royal Irish Academy

Coffee break

3.30pm – 5pm, Panel Four: Godlands, Colonialism, and Independence

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Journalist and Writer: ‘An Irishman who thinks he’s a Jew’

Stephen Howe, Senior Research Fellow in Historical Studies, University of Bristol: ‘Nationalists, Rationalists and Wild Men

Cameron Duodu, Novelist, Journalist and Critic: ‘The Intellectual and the Dictator: Conor Cruise O’Brien in Ghana

Chair: Kate O’Malley, Assistant Editor, Documents on Irish Foreign Policy, Royal Irish Academy


‘Conor Cruise O’Brien: A Centennial Appraisal’

Welcome by the Chancellor of Trinity College Dublin, Mary Robinson

Frank Callanan, Senior Counsel and Historian: ‘Conor Cruise O’Brien: A Centennial Appraisal’

Roundtable Discussion: Chaired by Patrick Geoghegan, Professor in Modern History in Trinity College Dublin and Broadcaster, Talking History, Newstalk.

Participants: David Bromwich, Margaret O’Callaghan & Ruairí Quinn

DAY 2: Friday November 3rd

9.30am – 11.45am, Panel FIve: ‘What humanity, reason, and justice, tell me I ought to do' – Cruise O’Brien on Edmund Burke, the Enlightenment, and the Founding Fathers

Richard Bourke, Professor in the History of Political Thought and Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of the History of Political Thought, Queen Mary University London: ‘Ancestral Voices: Burke and O’Brien’

David Bromwich, Sterling Professor of English, Yale University: ‘How Burke Imagined Himself’

Susan Dunn, Massachusetts Professor of Humanities at Williams College, Mass: ‘The Importance of Moderation: Burke and the American Founding Fathers.’

Paul Finkelman, Fulbright Chair in Human Rights and Social Justice, University of Ottawa, Canada and John E. Murray Visiting Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh: ‘The Rise and Fall of St Thomas of Monticello’

Chair: Eamonn O’Flaherty, Associate Professor, School of History, University College Dublin


Coffee break

12noon – 1.15pm, Panel Six: ‘The Cruiser’ – Journalist and Editor

Eoghan Harris, Columnist, Sunday Independent: ‘The Cruiser as Columnist and Combatant’

Stephen Collins, Columnist and former Political Editor, The Irish Times: ‘Working from within and attacking from without: Conor Cruise O’Brien in Politics and in Journalism’

Chair: Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Writer and Journalist

1.15pm – 2.15pm: Lunch


2.15pm – 3.45pm, Panel Seven: ‘An Electric Shock to the Irish Psyche’ –

Cruise O’Brien in Politics

Margaret O’Callaghan, Historian and Political Analyst, Queens University Belfast: ‘Conor Cruise O’Brien and Commemorating the Easter Rising in the 1970s’

Stephen Kelly, Senior Lecturer, Liverpool Hope University: ‘“I was altogether out of tune with my colleagues over Northern Ireland”: Conor Cruise O'Brien and Northern Ireland, 1969-1985’

Brendan Halligan, Former Gen. Sec. Labour Party, TD & MEP: ‘Conor and His Little Platoon’

Chair: Mary E. Daly, Emeritus Professor of History, University College Dublin

Coffee break

4pm – 5.30pm, Panel Eight: Northern Ireland: ‘The Shirt of Nessus’?

Dennis Kennedy, Former Deputy Editor, The Irish Times: ’Leinster House to Ulster Hall: Conor Cruise goes North’

Susan McKay, Author, Journalist, and Director of The Glens Centre, Leitrim

Deaglán de Bréadún, Columnist, The Irish News and former Northern Editor, The Irish Times

Chair: John Bowman, Historian and Broadcaster



Address by Niall Burgess, Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Registration for this event is now closed. There are still seats available for the public event on Thursday evening, 'Conor Cruise O'Brien: a centennial appraisal' .Those interested in particular panels in the symposium are welcome to turn up on the day to look for returns - we do not anticipate that all those who registered will attend every panel.


Campus LocationTrinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute
Accessibility: Yes
Room: Neill Lecture Theatre
Event Category: Alumni, Arts and Culture, Conferences, Lectures and Seminars, Public
Type of Event: One-time event
Audience: Undergrad, Postgrad, Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Public
Cost: Free (but registration is essential)

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