Sunday, January 1, 2017

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Frank O'Brien

Anthony McIntyre writes about Frank O'Brien, a regular columnist with TPQ who died in October.



Frank O'Brien
When I still lived in Belfast Frank O’Brien would regularly ring me and in his deep baritone voice, introducing himself as Proinsias, expound at length on the problems confronting humanity. He had a keen interest in Ireland, having at one time served as head of Clan na Gael in Troy, Albany. He unfailingly referred to Ireland as "the old country". Back then, hope, being the last thing to die, led Frank to be eternally optimistic that Irish republicanism might yet prove successful in the North. He died realising it was a forlorn hope. There wasn’t a chance. The rot, the careerism, the strategic bankruptcy and ideological vacuity had combined to produce the most corrosive of effects. His energy was focussed on other things and in his writings the Irish conflict barely got a mention.

Frank died in October, a month before his 51st birthday. Despite a long illness, he concealed it from us so well that when I found out he had died it came wholly out of the blue. About year before he passed he began submitting material to TPQ. He was delighted that it was carried but also with the freedom that it gave him to promote his ideas.  His most viewed piece was Imran Khan, Democracy & The Imperialist War On Terror, one of TPQ's most widely read. For that year he had been in touch with me frequently. His hope was that his writing on TPQ would find him more opportunities as a columnist or broadcaster. He so badly wanted to succeed as an alternative commentator, distrusting the main news agencies whom he incessantly railed against.

Yet for all his writing we only ever got a glimpse of the man behind the pen.

He was born in Troy on November 17, 1965 to Maryalice Healy O’Brien and the late Paul W. O’Brien. Frank was a graduate of Catholic Central High School and Hudson Valley Community College and attended SUNY Oswego and Albany. Before his illness, Frank was employed by Norstar Bank in Albany. 

There was so much that he wrote about on TPQ, that we would be spoiled for choice were we to begin picking through them. He was a robust defender of Muslims against discrimination and racial profiling but he oversubscribed to the dubious concept of Islamophobia which has been used all too often to suppress discussion and rigorous scrutiny of the dangers of theocracy. He was strongly Catholic by faith and I felt his own religious convictions may have led him to feel that religious sentiment should be protected from offence, a suggestion that is anathema to me. However, my own atheism never seemed to put him put in the least. One of his Pakistani friends paid the following tribute to him on his death:

Rest in peace brother Frank O'Brien and I will miss you a lot. You remained an excellent inspiration and role model for me and you have infused spirit in my abilities to write. May Allah bless your soul an everlasting peace.

There was so much of his general analysis worldview that I could never find myself in agreement with, thinking that he veered too much towards a conspiratorial view of the world. Others, however, found his writing refreshing. There was general admiration for the passion with which he promoted his ideas. 

TPQ was better for having his contribution and is impoverished by his absence.  

6 comments :

sean bres said...

Frank was one of the few people I've come across on this site with a semblance of what is wrong in our world and for who is responsible - even if, like most of us, he was still trying to join the dots. 51 is quite young too. I'm sure his friends and family miss him. Rest in peace Frank - codladh sámh.

Henry JoY said...

First and foremost, I offer condolences to those that mourn Frank.

Reluctantly I put finger to keyboard in cautioning those that mostly unconsciously neglect to consider the totality of the message as purveyed by the likes of Frank. I'm all for freedom of speech but we must critically challenge that right whilst at the same time affording and balancing that right to expression with protection.
In my opinion, the editorial staff on the 'Quill' failed Frank.
His opinion piece where I commented "Frank, are you off your meds again?" ought not have been carried without further investigation. Frank's, to my mind,outrageous and superfluous claims about control and 'standing down' of 'Volunteers' ought to have been challenged and interrogated before publication.

Though I appreciate the platform provides for an exchange of ideas I'm not sure of an absolute policy of 'publish and be dammed'is always the most useful. Its a noble ideal alright but is it always the right thing? I understand the limitations of the converse and remind publishers that there are loads of vulnerable people out there where providing such an unchallenged platform may serve the ideal of 'freedom from censorship' well alas such ideals may not yet serve the interests of the individual expressee well.

Affording a platform where disturbed and troubled people are allowed to express their thoughts in an unfettered way surely has its inherent limitations?

Can absolute adherence to an ideal absolve responsibilities?

grouch said...

really sad at the Quill for allowing the above comment to be published by someone who hides behind a monicker. Anthony, this guy actually used the phrase - "the likes of Frank" in the above comment, as for the this - " Affording a platform where disturbed and troubled people are allowed to express their thoughts in an unfettered way surely has its inherent limitations?" i actually laughed my ass off when i consider the person who typed that in, but on another level its not one bit funny. God be good to you Frank, you are missed my friend, and as i quoted from the Lament for Brendan Behan in another post here, - "for gone went our great captain to some more hospitable inn where CANT AND HYPOCRISY can no longer embarrass him." (my caps). slan.

AM said...

Grouch,

seems you and Henry Joy are on the same page, wanting things banned from the site!

We did not want a bun fight on an obituary page so it refrained from commenting in response to Henry Joy.

We were right to carry his comment

But since publishing it our view has not changed. The one way TPQ could have failed
Frank was by censoring his opinion. Frank gained immense satisfaction from having his pieces carried here. We did not fail Frank in the slightest. Henry Joy said we should not have carried his comment about meds. Yet he knew in advance of posting it that it would be carried. If he had any reason for not wanting the comment published he should have refrained from submitting it before "further investigation" by him.

Frank had his own writing style and his arguments were enjoyed by many. We didn't have to agree with Frank in order to find him interesting and intelligent. Any suggestion that he should have been banned on the basis of being "disturbed and troubled" would have met with outright rejection from us. We would have viewed it as denying people the ability to free expression on the grounds of mental health. Frank was no Michael Henry, who descended so far into gibberish that his comments became unintelligible.

sean bres said...

Grouch, I got your message on Facebook - from May last year. It only showed up in a 'hidden' section of my Messenger because of an action on Facebook's part. If you're still on Facebook send me a request.

grouch said...

sound sean will get in touch, and dont publish the reply i made to you anthony earlier if u dnt mind, i made my point already and as u rightfully pointed out this isnt the place for a fight, cheers old stock.