Wednesday 13 December 2017

No room at 
Fine Gael inn for John 
Bruton's ideas

Conservatism of former Taoiseach's colleagues has historical echoes as far back as Michael Collins, says John-Paul McCarthy

John Redmond
John Redmond

John-Paul McCarthy

By all accounts, Conor Cruise O'Brien found his tenure as a cabinet minister markedly less nourishing than his work at the UN, or his stint at New York University. But one particular meeting of the Cosgrave government seems to have seared itself into his memory.

After the then foreign minister Garret FitzGerald opened proceedings by emphasising the absolute centrality of some kind of all-Ireland council to the gestating Sunningale process, most of his colleagues nodded assent. O'Brien was the only minister to dissent from the consensus, and he asked FitzGerald how he could be so confident that the all-Ireland structures would not end up deranging the internal power-sharing negotiations. FitzGerald replied with a tart assurance that John Hume had worked all that out.

O'Brien wrote later about how he suddenly felt acutely conscious at that moment that he was the sole non-practicing Catholic in the cabinet room; an elite of one, even.

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