Ruairí Ó Brádaigh 2nd October 1932 - 5th June 2013

Guest writer Martin Longwill with an obituary on Ruairí Ó Brádaigh on behalf of the James Connolly Association Australia. Ruairí Ó Brádaigh was laid to rest today in Roscommon.

The James Connolly Association Australia wish to extend our deepest sympathy to the family, friends and comrades of the late Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, particularly to his wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Ruairí Ó Brádaigh has been described as a giant among men within republicanism. This is undoubtedly a fitting and appropriate description of the man. He joined the Republican Movement while still in his teens in 1950, followed shortly thereafter with taking membership of the Irish Republican Army. Over the course of the decades that have followed, he served two lengthy terms as President of Sinn Féin as well as having served as Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army on a number of occasions. He was imprisoned a number of times due to his republican activity. From 2009 until his death he was Patron of Sinn Féin Poblachtach.

At testing times within the history of republicanism, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh maintained an unwavering commitment to the ideal. In both 1970 and 1986 he along with others led republicans away from reformist and constitutional paths that others within the Movement sought to go. Reflecting on his speech on motion 162, some will say he prophesied on what would follow on from opting to participate in proceedings at Leinster House. Such was his understanding of Irish history and Britain's intentions towards Ireland that he could clearly see what many others had not yet seen. Regardless, his words that day have rung true. The position he held that day was correct, and the position he has held from that day, from the beginning, and to the end of his life, has proven to be correct.

Like all anti-imperialist revolutionaries, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh's perspective was internationalist. While the focus of many people remained on the situation in Ireland, he was also a champion of justice for the oppressed everywhere. He was a strong proponent of international solidarity, and was a long-time member of the Celtic League - campaigning for the right to self determination of the stateless nations in Western Europe.

For those of us who have had the pleasure of meeting or working with Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, we can say he was personable, sincere, dignified, genuine and dedicated. When a person is asked of their impressions upon meeting Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, they will invariably describe him in the same light. Such was the respect he commanded that even the critics of his political position tend to describe him similarly.

The greatest honour we can bestow upon this great man who dedicated a lifetime of effort to a noble cause is to continue where he left off - to oppose injustice where we find it, to defend what is right, to strive for the full freedom of Ireland - for this is what he himself did when others went before him.


  1. Fitting tribute. Was a sad day the day he died for sure, a great man - be very hard to say a bad word about him. Called into the Garden of Remembrance this evening in Bundoran just to pause for thought as to just how great a man it is that has passed from us. I would sum up Ruairi O'Bradaigh by saying that he unstintingly refused to disassociate from the 1919 Republic and remained true to it right 'til the end, something we all can learn from. All-in-all just a great man who will be remembered well when history is written and all's said and done - unlike those who came after him. No well-wishing crap to British royalty for this man while his country remained occupied and historical injustices unresolved. He was Patron of Sinn Fein Phoblactach at the time of his death but in truth he was much more than that, he was Patron to us all, each and every one of us. His name will be remembered as a loyal servant of the one, true republic, may he rest in peace

  2. I attended the funeral today. Adams and McGuinness were there ... wearing riot gear

  3. AM-

    " I attended the funeral today.
    Adams and McGuinness were there-

    They weren't still beating you AM-

    Sean bres-

    This is maybe the wrong place to bring this up-[Apology if it is AM]

    Have you read Exiled yet-[about the
    ETB]by Thomas Anthony McNulty-he mostly just uses first names-but you know the Volunteers straight off-a good read though-

  4. The state police were out in force in order to prevent a repeat of Alan Ryan's funeral. However hundreds of republicans, young and old, ensured the great man was buried with dignity and discipline.

  5. Martin,

    thanks for this piece and welcome to the Quill.


    haven't even heard of it. Will mark it down for a read. Think I will go back and review Bob White's book on Ruairi. Bob was at the funeral yesterday.

  6. Haven't heard of it either Michael but if you're recommending it and I come across it I'll surely read it

  7. AM- I would be interested in reading a review on Robert White's book on Ruairi O'Bradaigh. O'Bradaigh was reliably sharp and articulate. He always looked like a difficult man to best in a debate.

  8. Simon,

    did you read the book?

    He was encyclopedic in his knowledge of the history. I interviewed him in the mid 90s and he would reach for a book and go directly to the page he wanted to reference his point with. I really liked him.

  9. AM- The above references to it are the first I have seen so I was thinking of getting myself a copy. I searched for it online but ended up buying another one of Robert White's books, a title which is harder to get.

    There seem to be plenty of hardbacks of O'Bradaigh's biography left online so I intend to buy it before long. It has received great write-ups from a diverse range of well-known reviewers so I was wondering what you thought of it yourself.

  10. Another man of unyelding principle, I too noticed the Garda/RUC presence.

  11. How lovely to read such nice measured comments on a man who was a wonderful teacher with a razor sharp brain. MW

  12. Ruairi O Bradaigh was a principled republican,who dedicated his life to the republican cause,and of that there can be no doubt,a fitting tribute.
    Sean Bres have you noticed the mistake on one of the plaques in the garden?

  13. I never noticed Marty, which one was it?

  14. Minor detail Sean a cara but on Kieran Doc,s plaque Andersonstown is spelt with just one "s" , I have seen this on the big base drums of some of our Scottish friends..

  15. A fitting obituary to Ruairi O Bradaigh , A true Republican to the end.

    In 1986 he , and , others knew SF's plans , what they were scheming, and those who walked out were correct.

    A man of stature, A man of Truth , Intelligent , Witty , and , best of all , A man who would listen to what ever was being said to him.

  16. We came home from Leitrim yesterday,looking it absolutely beautiful best in last weekends glorious sunshine,we spent all of Saturday on Streedagh beach,on this beach survivors from the Spanish armada landed after their ship was wrecked off shore,many of these survivors were butchered by Scottish mercenaries in the employ of the English,Francisco De Cuellar a Spanish sea captain and survivor gives a graphic account of his harrowing ordeal on these shores we read of the brutality of some Irishmen and we also hear of the kindness and hospitality of others,De Cuellars trail can be traced to the shores of Lough Melvin,with majestic Benbulbin in the background,where legend has it as the home of the Fianna,in such a beautiful place so steeped in our history and with the laughter of my children and their children playing in the warm Atlantic,that it was possible to spare a thought on the departing of that great Irishman Ruairi O Bradaigh and how some who call themselves Irish can still act as agents of the English.

  17. Ruairi O'Bradaigh was viewed as the grandfather of modern day Republicanism. He outlived most of his former comrades from the 50's era, although not all of them agreed and, some would even become bitter enemies. By the outbreak of the current conflict he was seen as being old school and conservative by his opponents on the left. The Goulding faction, under the influence of Marxism, attacked O'Bradaigh accusing him of being a traditionalist and, a militarist to boot. But he was a more complex thinker than the one dimensional image portrayed by his detractors. His politics could be best described as having been left-of-centre; more social democratic than socialist.

    Nor does he appear to have fitted in to the "terrorist" genre of the present day. Interestingly, a Fine Gael TD attended his funeral attracting criticism from the southern press. For many Ruairi O'Bradaigh seems to have represented a purer form of Irish Republicanism that predates the arrival on the stage of the Provisional IRA: And yet he was a founding member of that organisation. This can only be explained by the subjective nature of such value judgements. We all have our favourites and, equally, we all have our rouges.

  18. Doesn't matter if people hide behind words like 'pragmatism' or 'tactic', the reality is everything O'Bradaigh stated would come of their actions turned out to be on the nail.

    Whether traditional republicans are marginalised and seen as irrelevant today is not the issue, from the point of view of republicanism they are embarrassing simply because they retain the name Sinn Fein. FF and WP at least had the decorum to change their title with their politics.

    The longer they retain the name SF surely to more certain they are of a reaction in good time.

  19. O’Bradaigh: "Discussing going into Leinster House, Stormont or Westminster is as foreign and as alien as that the IRA would sit down and discuss surrender of arms."

  20. Alec,

    a concise but insightful view of the man.

    The Goulding group dabbled in Marxism to a large extent because it gave rise to organisational forms that suited its purpose. It loved the democratic centralism which is invariably more centralist than democratic. At the same time many of Goulding's followers did absorb the ethos and today you find them committed to a left programme and gobsmacked by what the former Sticks like Gilmore have signed up to.

    It is also noticeable how many who were with the Workers Party right on past the ceasefires are now SF voters.

    Ruairi was indeed complex in his thinking. That did not stop him sounding theological at times but theologians are no less complex thinkers because of that.

    I thought it decent and dignified of Frank Feighan to attend the funeral. He would not give Ruairi's politics the time of day but he acknowledged the man as something more than the sum total of his politics. Frank did not compromise himself in the slightest by turning up. I attended the funeral of Billy Mitchel in the heart of Carrick and did not feel compromised in the slightest by it. When he was alive I was very forthright with my views to him as indeed he was to me.

    Favourites and rogues - it is just the way we are I guess.

    Ruairi was a great stalwart of republicanism.

  21. arms - just one more thing the great Lieder lied about

  22. Father of Maze hunger striker Bobby Sands dies at the age of 91

    From The Newsletter............

    The father of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands has died in hospital aged 91.

    John Sands was not a public figure and was rarely mentioned in the media.

    He died surrounded by his family on Saturday morning.

    Mr Sands – along with wife Rosaleen and children Bobby, Marcella and John jnr – was living in the predominantly Protestant Rathcoole estate in Newtownabbey when the Troubles erupted, leading to the polarisation of the two communities.

    He moved his family to the sprawling, mainly Catholic Twinbrook estate on the outskirts of west Belfast.

    In a magazine article shortly after the IRA hunger strike of the early 1980s, John snr, the product of a mixed Catholic/Protestant marriage, was quoted as saying the whole family felt betrayed.

    “I was a war veteran of the British Navy at Anzio and the South Pacific. The freedom I fought for didn’t help us,” he said.

    His son Bobby would come to prominence as the first of 10 republican prisoners to die in the Maze Prison on hunger strike.

    Pictures of John snr carrying his son’s coffin, along with one-time Sinn Fein MP Owen Carron, were carried in the media following the funeral in May 1981.

    Among the newspaper death notices for Mr Sands this week were those from his daughters Marcella and Bernadette (Sands-McKevitt) and her husband Michael, and son John.

    Ms Sands-McKevitt has been an outspoken opponent of the Good Friday Agreement and is a founder member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement.

    Following the signing of the agreement in 1998, she said: “Bobby did not die for cross-border bodies with executive powers.

    “He did not die for nationalists to be equal British citizens within the Northern Ireland state.”

    John Sands’ funeral is due to take place this morning at St Agnes’ church on the Andersonstown Road, followed by burial in the City Cemetery