Not only was O’Brien steadfast and unambivalent in his opposition to terror, but his realisation that unionism formed a rational and defensible political doctrine was a hugely valuable contribution to a more tolerant discourse in Ireland.
Maurice Hayes does not offered unqualified praise for O’Brien, but in his Irish Independent piece he does produce three paragraphs which neatly sum up his political legacy.
“CCOB's great contribution to modern Irish political debate -- apart from his implacable hounding of those who would in any way condone the use of violence -- was to force the recognition of the Unionist community in Northern Ireland as Unionists as well as Protestants.
He cut through the comfortable myths which had sustained the relatively passive anti-partitionist rhetoric of successive governments in which Unionists were dismissed either as a group of deluded patriots who would soon come to their senses or a hard-headed lot who would jump to the side their bread was best buttered on.
Almost single-handedly (in public at least) over several decades, he explained the realities of a complex and confusing set of allegiances and relationships, and forced the Irish public mind to come to terms with the existence of a Unionist community in the North."