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John Le Carré: Acclaimed novelist died an Irish citizen after strong opposition to Brexit

Cold War espionage author David Cornwell, known by his pen name John le Carre, died aged 89 after a battle with pneumonia. Photo by Ian West/PA Wire

RENOWNED English novelist John Le Carré died an Irishman after he took citizenship before his death in December last year.

His son Nicholas Cornwell revealed that his father's interest in his Irish heritage, as well as his strong opposition to Brexit, led him to take Irish citizenship.

"He was, by the time he died, an Irish citizen," his son said in a BBC Radio 4 documentary due to air on Saturday.

"On his last birthday I gave him an Irish flag, and so one of the last photographs I have of him is him sitting wrapped in an Irish flag, grinning his head off."

Read More: John le Carre: The writer who opened a window on the secret world

Born David Cornwell, Le Carré, the author of 25 novels including acclaimed best-sellers Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, and The Night Manager, was seen as a quintessentially English writer.

However, his friend Philippe Sands, who made the documentary, noticed an "emotional shift" after the novelist visited Cork, where his grandmother came from.

As he researched his roots, he was embraced by a town archivist who told him: "Welcome home".

In an article in the Times, Mr Sands said he only learned about his friend's Irish citizenship recently.

"This I did not know, not when we were together, not when I entered the archives just a few weeks ago, imagining a journey around the writer and his country. In the end, there were three countries: the country of his home, the country of his soul and the country of his forebears," he said.

The country of his soul was Germany, which awarded him the prestigious Goethe medal in 2011.

Le Carré was open about his strong opposition to Brexit, telling Irish writer John Banville in 2019: "I think Brexit is totally irrational, that it’s evidence of dismal statesmanship on our part, and lousy diplomatic performances".

"I think my own ties to England were hugely loosened over the last few years," he said.

"And it’s a kind of liberation, if a sad kind."

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