Ruairí Ó Brádaigh was a towering figure of Irish Republicanism in the latter half of the 20th century. He came to embody the very essence of the Republican tradition, setting the very highest standards of commitment, duty, honour and loyalty to the cause of Irish freedom.
Since 1950 he served at every level of the Republican Movement, and from 1956 took on the onerous responsibilities of national leadership with only a short interval, up to the present day. Ruairí was a man of immense capability both as a politician and as a soldier. He holds the unique distinction of serving as President of Sinn Féin, Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army and from 1957 to 1961 as a TD, representing Longford/Westmeath.
At critical junctures in the history of the Republican Movement, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, along with his close friend and comrade, the late Dáithí Ó Conaill, manned the gap against the forces of reformism who sought to convert a revolutionary movement of national liberation into a mere constitutional political party, first in 1969/70 and once again in 1986.
For Ruairí the essential principles of Irish freedom were clear and marked the political course to be followed. He dismissed any cult of the personality, warning always of the inherent dangers of following merely the man or woman over the cause of Irish national independence. At a time when our sense of identity is being steadily eroded, when our people are discouraged from taking pride in their history or culture Ruairí Ó Brádaigh was a tireless champion of the Irish language viewing it as the cornerstone of our unique identity as a nation.
Like Pádraig Mac Piarais he believed in an Ireland that was: not only free but Gaelic as well; not only Gaelic but free as well.
As an Irish Republican he believed passionately in Theobald Wolfe Tones vision of substituting the denominations of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter with the common name of Irish man and Irish woman.
He played a leading role in formulating the ÉIRE NUA proposals for a four-province Federal Ireland, which was based on the principles of true decentralisation of decision-making with full particatpory democracy involving all sections of the Irish people as trust founders of a New Ireland. Such a democratic template would provide the Unionist minority with a New Ireland with real political power and decision-making. He was among the Republican leaders who met representatives of loyalism and unionism at Feakle, Co Clare in 1974 and later strongly supported the MacBride/Boal talks, which were eventually sabotaged by a 26-County Government Minister.
Such was Ruairís commitment to the principles of a non-sectarian and pluralist Ireland that he and Dáithí Ó Conaill stepped down from the positions of President and Vice President respectively of Sinn Féin when ÉIRE NUA was dropped as a policy document to further the agenda of a reformist clique operating within the Republican Movement in the early 1980s.
For Ruairí Ó Brádaigh there could be no temporising on the issue of British rule in Ireland. Drawing on the lessons of Irish history he recognised that it constituted the root cause of conflict and injustice for the Irish people. In opposing the 1998 Stormont Agreement he rightly viewed it as a flawed document serving only to copper-fasten British Rule while also institutionalising sectarianism, thereby further deepening the sectarian divide. Ruairí Ó Brádaighs analysis has since been bourne out by a number of independent studies which have shown an increase in sectarianism in the Six Counties in the years since 1998. The economically and politically oppressed and partitioned Ireland is far removed from the vision of a New Ireland, which inspired Irish Republicans such as Ruairí Ó Brádaigh.
In an introduction to the biography of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh written by Professor Robert White, the journalist Ed Moloney described Ruairí as the last, or one of the last Irish Republicans. Whilst the tribute was well intentioned the case is quite different. It is because of the lifes work of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh that he is not the last Republican but has rather ensured the continuity of Irish Republicanism, passing on the torch to succeeding generations.
We in Republican Sinn Féin are proud to remember him as our President and later our Patron, as a man of great intellect, coupled with great humanity and empathy for the oppressed both in Ireland and internationally. We salute his memory and pledge our resolve to honour him by continuing his work, guided by the same principles and maintaining the same high standards of integrity, truth and that marked Ruairí Ó Brádaigh as man and patriot. We extend our profound sympathies to his wife Patsy, and the Ó Brádaigh family. Ar dheis dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Biography: Ruairí Ó Brádaigh
1950: Joined Sinn Féin
1951: Joined the Irish Republican Army.
1955: OC Arborfield arms raid.
1956: 2 o/c Teeling Column, South Fermanagh.
1957: Elected in Longford-Westmeath Sinn Féin TD to All-Ireland parliament.
1958: Escaped with Dáithí Ó Conaill from Curragh Camp.
1958-9 and 1960-62: IRA Chief of Staff.
1966: Republican candidate in Fermanagh-South Tyrone.
1970-83: President of Sinn Féin.
1987 to date: President of Republican Sinn Féin.
2009-2013: Patron of Republican Sinn Féin.
Married to Patsy, six children: Mait, Ruairí Óg, Conor, Deirdre, Ethne, Colm, grandchildren and great-grandchild. He was a secondary teacher by profession.