Fintan O_Toole

Fintan O’Toole

Journalist, Intellectual & Adjunct Professor at Princeton 

A provocateur and opinion maker who makes us think about our own agency and interconnectedness in a complex world


Operating in the intersections between politics, history and literature, Fintan O’Toole continues to elude definition despite being one of Ireland’s leading intellectuals. Yet, across his myriad activities and 25 books, a common theme is clear: the power of decisions, both brave and bad, to change lives. History is proof of this, politics and culture an expression of it, and literature and theatre the tools we use to make sense of it. His work embraces all of these and more.  

Whether as an award-winning journalist or in his role as the Leonard L. Milberg visiting lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton University, Fintan’s animating passion is the idea that everyone has the same human potential and the same human right to fulfill it. How and if we realise that potential is determined by the decisions we make. In knitting together the facts and influences that shape his opinions, Fintan provokes us to better understand our own, and the decisions we make as a result. 

The singular breadth of his intellectual interests, which sit at the nexus between politics, history and culture, is an expression of Fintan’s deep curiosity about the world. It’s also key to his success as a compelling speaker widely regarded for his reason, insight and intelligence, and his rare gift for making the complex comprehensible. People inevitably come away with a deeper understanding of the world and of their own agency within it. 

Fintan has been with The Irish Times since 1988, and also contributes to The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, Granta, The Guardian, The Observer, and other international publications. He is the winner of both the Orwell Prize and the European Press Prize for his work on Brexit. He is currently working on the official biography of Seamus Heaney.  


Brexit, Trumpism, Democracy. Fintan brings his insight and opinions on how the global political landscape is shaping our decisions, society and culture, and he explores how we can collectively and individually make a difference. 

Living a dignified life. The minimum set of conditions needed to create this life.  Education, healthcare, agency, empowerment.  

The lessons learnt from Ireland’s history of globalisation.  

Ideas start from a place of curiosity. Insatiably curious from a young age, Fintan believes that everyone has the right to information to help them make decisions. Is curiosity something we can learn, and why should we? Does the digital era help or hinder curiosity? What are we basing our decisions on?  Fintan discusses these and more in this stimulating and thought-provoking keynote. 




Books include White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America (2005), After the Ball (2003); Shakespeare is Hard but so is Life (2002); The Irish Times Book of the Century (1999); A Traitor_s Kiss: The Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1997); The Lie of the Land: Selected Essays (1997); The Ex-Isle of Erin (1996); Black Hole, Green Card (1994); Meanwhile Back at the Ranch (1995); A Mass for Jesse James (1990) and The Politics of Magic (1987).


“I would like to thank you for your contribution to the fourth Foundation Forum ‘Global recession: Europe’s way out’. Your introduction in the plenary started a very lively conversation in the workshop ‘Joint actions to tackle the recession’. Your skillful and concise summary of that debate was highly appreciated by conference participants: during the second day of the conference many referred back to your earlier interventions.”
Jorma Karppinen, Director, Eurofound

“Fintan O’Toole was unforgettable. It was a brilliant event. Capacity, audience, and it could have gone on all night. Inspirational and thought-provoking. We will certainly want him back when the new book comes out.” Ann Luttrell, Programmer, Triskel Arts Centre

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