President Michael D Higgins leads tributes to poet Ulick O'Connor (90)
PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins last night led tributes to poet, journalist and historian Ulick O'Connor who has died at the age of 90.
Mr Higgins extended condolences to Mr O’Connor’s family and “all those whose lives he touched in so many ways”.
“His commitment to performance will be remembered fondly as well as his lifelong support for actors and their livelihoods,” he said.
“I was proud to have him as a friend."
Born in Rathgar, Co Dublin in 1928, Mr O'Connor's father Matthew was Dean of the Royal College of Surgeons.
He attended St Mary's College, Rathmines and studied law and philosophy at UCD, being called to the Bar in 1951 and practising as a barrister for 15 years.
During that time he also worked as a sports writer for The Observer, contributed a regular poetry column to the Evening Herald, and wrote a column for the Sunday Mirror and a sporting column for the Sunday Times.
His best known writing was his critically acclaimed biographies of Oliver St John Gogarty and Brendan Behan and his studies of the early 20th-century Irish troubles and the Irish Literary Revival.
His autobiography The Ulick O’Connor Diaries 1970-1981: A Cavalier Irishman also topped best seller lists.
His play Executions was shown at Féile an Phobail where he was a regular contributor in the early days of the west Belfast festival.
Mr O'Connor also played a role as a conduit between nationalist and loyalist paramilitaries on behalf of Irish government in the 1970s during an attempt to broker peace talks.
Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said: "Ulick was a strong republican. He first spoke on a platform with me in the 1980s.
"He was also a regular visitor to Sinn Féin Ard Fheiseanna for decades until ill-health prevent him from attending.
"He was a fine poet, artiste, social commentator, athlete, author and playwright."
Séamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said Mr O'Connor was a proud member of the organisation.
"Ulick enjoyed the notoriety of his early years as a panellist on the Late Late Show," he said.
"He was a vibrant and gloriously contrary figure on the Irish media landscape. Ulick O’Connor made a significant contribution to Irish journalism and to the arts.
"He loved writing about poetry and introducing poems and poets to newspaper readers. He was a poet, writer and critic of style and erudition.
"He had a particular interest in the work of Brendan Behan, also a member of the NUJ.
"Like Behan, Ulick could be extremely argumentative and provocative yet capable of great charm and always generous with his knowledge and insights.
"Ulick was a unique character who certainly made his mark as a journalist, writer, dramatist, sportsman and controversialist."