Identity Statement for Conor Cruise O’Brien

  • Reference code: IE UCDA P82
  • Title: Papers of Conor Cruise O’Brien (1917–2008)
  • Dates: 1937–82
  • Level of description: Fonds
  • Extent: 21 boxes
  • Context
  • Content and Structure
  • Conditions of Access and Use

Biographical History

‌Born in Dublin and educated at Sandford Park and Trinity College Dublin where an outstanding undergraduate and postgraduate career culminated in the award of the PhD degree in 1954. He had joined the Civil Service after graduation in 1942 and from 1944 served in the Department of External Affairs including a period in the Irish Embassy in Paris and the Managing Directorship of the Irish News Agency. From 1956 he was in charge of the United Nations section of External Affairs and a member of the Irish delegation to the general assembly. At the request of Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, he was released by the Department and appointed UN civilian representative in the Congo where he had responsibility for the implementation of resolutions on the secession of Katanga. He resigned from this post and from the Civil Service in December 1961.

In 1962 he married the poet Máire Mac An tSaoi, his second wife, and accepted the position of Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana. From 1965 he was Schweitzer Professor of Humanities at New York University. He returned to Dublin in 1969 and was elected TD for the Labour Party in the Dublin North-East constituency, acting as party spokesman on foreign affairs. He was Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in the coalition government, 1973–77, was elected to the Seanad in 1977 after losing his Dáil seat and was editor- in-chief of the Observer newspaper, 1979–81. He has served as a Visiting Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, 1973–75, Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford, 1978–81, Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College, 1984–85, and has been Pro-Chancellor of Dublin University since 1973. He has been awarded honorary degrees by a number of universities including Ghana, Edinburgh and the Queen’s University, Belfast.

His publications include Maria Cross (1952), Parnell and his party (1957), To Katanga and back (1962), States of Ireland (1973), The Great Melody (1992) and Memoir: my life and themes (1998).

Archival History

This collection was deposited in UCD Archives by Conor Cruise O'Brien in 1984. Once the collection was fully catalogued, it was microfilmed and then the original collection was returned to the family.

Scope and Content

Material relating to his undergraduate career (1937–41) and his doctoral research (1943–54).

United Nations representative in the Congo (1961): documents relating to his appointment, tenure and resignation; and to developments in the country after his departure.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana (1962–5): his appointment; correspondence with Kwame Nkrumah, President of Ghana and Chancellor of the University, mainly concerning university affairs but also the situation in the Congo and Ghanaian government policy. Official and personal correspondence; texts of addresses and speeches; proposals for the future development of the university; and correspondence and newscuttings concerning the overthrow of the Nkrumah government. Material concerning return visits to the university (1966, 74).

Schweitzer Professor of Humanities, New York University (1965–74): his appointment; the programme for the professorship; texts of papers and addresses given both within the university and in the wider community, especially in the context of the anti-war movement. Correspondence while at NYU concerning literary projects, family matters, events in Africa, the anti-war movement and U.S. domestic politics.

Labour Party TD, Dublin North-East (1969–77) and Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (1973–7): election campaigns (1969, 73, 77); constituency material and general correspondence; Labour Party affairs including parliamentary party meetings and policy with particular reference to Northern Ireland. Posts and Telegraphs routine departmental material. Texts of speeches, lectures and public statements as a public representative and government minister.

Writing (1950s–80s): texts of articles and essays, reviews, broadcasts, lectures and addresses. Contracts, outlines, drafts, texts, correspondence, publicity material and reviews relating to his major published and performed work.

  • Access: Available by appointment to holders of a UCD Archives reader's ticket. Produced for consultation in microform.
  • Language: English
  • Finding aid: Descriptive catalogue
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