Ex-Irish minister O'Brien waves Union flag

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Conor Cruise O'Brien, veteran Irish diplomat, politician and newspaperman, could become a unionist member of the Northern Ireland Forum, writes Paul Routledge. At the invitation of its founder, Robert McCartney MP, he has entered the "regional list" of the United Kingdom Unionist Party - the top-up instrument that will bring 20 extra members to the bargaining table, including the "hoods in suits" from the Loyalist paramilitaries. Mr O'Brien, 78, could win a seat on the body choosing negotiators to find a lasting settlement of the Ulster question.

The "Cruiser's" odyssey from nationalist to unionist has been a long one, he told the Dublin Sunday Independent, but "I feel more at ease with myself now, as a United Kingdom Unionist, than I ever did as an Irish nationalist." The Protestant-educated former member of the Irish Labour Party and minister of posts in the Dublin government of the mid-1970s has thrown his intellectual weight behind a party that believes Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK. "The more 'successes' are achieved by the nationalist attempt to impose a solution, the more likely we are to have a civil war," he argues. Leading article, p20