Lou Cannon, the estimable journalist, historian, and Reagan biographer, has reviewed my book on the Nobel Peace Prize, here. One of the things he says is, “I wish Nordlinger had displayed empathy for Sean MacBride, a leader of the Irish Republican Army when the IRA was not a gang of thugs but the legitimate representative of the aspirations of Irish Catholics.” I’m sure Lou is right about this, as he is on pretty much everything.
MacBride was certainly an interesting character, with a childhood no one would wish on anybody. He was born in exile, so to speak: in Paris, in 1904. Nothing wrong with that, true. But his parents were problematic, to say the least. I will ignore the father, Major John MacBride, for now, except to say that he was executed after the Easter Rising, when Sean was twelve.
The mother? Piece of work. She was Maud Gonne, the actress, revolutionary, and moll. Yeats was besotted with her, and proposed to her several times. She always said no, but she fueled his poetry. Then, Yeats proposed to her daughter, Iseult (Sean’s half-sister). Iseult said no too. She had an affair with another poet, Pound.
Anyway, MacBride grew up to do a lot of stuff: chief of staff in the IRA; foreign minister of Ireland; chairman of Amnesty International; high commissioner for Namibia; winner of, not just the Nobel Peace Prize, but the Lenin Peace Prize, which started life as the Stalin Peace Prize. (Poor guy, they took his name off everything.) MacBride’s solidarity with the peaceful chaps in the Kremlin was unshakable.
Two other men won both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Stalin/Lenin prize: They were Linus Pauling (who said that the award from the Soviets meant more to him than the award from the Norwegians) and Nelson Mandela.
One could say a lot more about MacBride, not to mention Pauling and Mandela, and I do so in my book. I’ll end here by noting that MacBride was very, very talented: razor-sharp mind, razor-sharp tongue. The kind of guy you wanted on your side.
Also: Viva Lou Cannon. Knows as much as anyone about American politics, and about other things as well.