Traditional Irish Republican Ruairí Ó Brádaigh passed away today at the age 80. Ruairí Ó Brádaigh was probably the most significant figure in the Irish Republican movement in Ireland, since the war of Independence and besides being Former IRA Chief of Staff, served as President of both Sinn Féin and Republican Sinn Féin respectively. I used to meet him at meetings in Castleblayney yeas ago and besides leaving a very strong impression on me, the last one he left with me, was the critical importance of our heritage. I wondered about his commitment to the socialist part of Irish republicanism and his reply was an Irish form of socialism.
Born in Longford in 1932 to a republican family, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh studied at UCD where he gained a degree in commerce. During his time at UCD he became involved with Sinn Féin and joined the IRA, of which his father had also been a member. Althoughr by profession a teache, Ruairí spent most of his time as a training officer for the IRA and in 1954 appointed to the Military Council of the IRA, eventually being IRA Chief of Staff until 1962.
He was elected as Sinn Féin TD in the Longford – Westmeath constituency in 1957. In 1970 Ruari Ó Brádaigh led the walkout from the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis after the majority voted in favour of the abolition of Sinn Féin’s policy of abstention. He became President of Provisional Sinn Féin which he held until his resignation in 1983. In 1986, Ruairi Ó Brádaigh again led a walk out, this time from the Provisonal Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, when they voted to drop the abstention policy. He and several supporters established Republican Sinn Féin and once again was appointed President until 2009 when he was succeeded by Des Dalton.
Ruairi Ó Brádaigh was arrested, imprisoned and interned many times throughout his life, for his actions and involvement with the IRA. He was perhaps best known for a hard line republican view particularly opposed to decommissioning by the Provisional IRA as part of the Good Friday Agreement.
"Dolours Price reviewing Ruairi O'Bradaigh's biography wrote the following in Indymedia Ireland
Monday June 26, 2006 20:11 by Dolours Price
Cardboard in their Shoes.
"This book belongs on all shelves, in all libraries, in all schools.This is the story of a man, a movement who toiled on, against all odds, who stayed with his choices, he is not the last Republican, he has been a custodian of Republicanism, for generations yet to come. Read this book again and again."
Cardboard in their Shoes.
By Dolours Price.
There is not a time in my remembered history within the family of Republicanism that I did not know the name Ruairi O' Bradaigh.
As a child, and later as a girl, I knew him as Mr. O'Bradaigh and I sat silently in the presence of my elders listening to stories of daring and struggle that had been the lot of Republicans throughout the ages. Ruairi O'Bradaigh figured often in these tales.
It is in the nature of life, of tgrowing up, of having 'done one's bit' that I can now call him ''Ruairi'' as he calls me 'Dolours'. The years and the deeds have brought some form of equality of status between us. My respect for him has never faltered and I like to think that I, in my turn have earned his respect also.
It was in Monkstown Culturlann that a biography of Ruairi was being launched. I rarely attend such affairs but the spirit moved me.
The biography by Professor Robert W. White, an American academic, looked impressive and copious copies were being signed by the subject himself, by the author and by anyone who felt a part of this period of Republican history. The fallow years when my father left for England to fight a war with cardboard in his shoes!
A look around the room took me back to Bodenstown commerations of many years agto, men still staunch but grown bent by the years and hard times in and out of prisons. Still true to the Faith as Ruairi would define it.
Bob White astounded me by the depth of research he poured into this work; names that I thought I had long since forgotten popped up regularly and a history I once thought I knew back to front became a whole new experience for me.
Having heard it all, as I thought , at my father's knee - I realised I had only heard a bit. Pieces, chunks, fell into place, some were elating and some were more depressing than even I could have imagined having lived through this time of deceit, double dealing and sell-outs. It was always there. Yes history does repeat itself!
Cathal Goulding, when the subject of constitutional politics, was first raised by the Official Movement is quoted as saying, ''We'll never take Ruairi with us'', they never did, nor did Gerry Adams. This easily read book makes that clear, this is a man who stood and stands in the face of others, willing to compromise, to cut corners, to convince themselves of the ''unimportance'' of the extremely ''important'' positions.
This vast work of academic and personal achievement will be read and re-read, will be thumbed by students, other academics, politicians and those who wish to know the real truth. The intrigue the 'fixing' of conventions, the devious dealings of those full of self concern and importance, the would be ''democract'' all is laid bare and makes for riveting, yet depressing reading.
Bob White describes Ruairi as the ''last Republican'', I think Ruairi would agree with me when I say I believe this to be not true. There are many of us, slightly younger, and many younger again who hold true to Republicanism as Ruairi defined it in 1950. We will always have our small differences (that is part of being a Republican) but overall we are united, no more so than now against the Good Friday debacle.
Asked would he make money from this book Rurai laughed and said, ''Sure when did Republicans ever make money?''. This is not a heavy tome to be laboured over, rather it brings a smile on every other page. They were not the greatest organiisers in the world of war and revolution but what they lacked in expertise they made up for with pure heart and cardboard in their shoes.
Had I been asked to undertake a work of this magnitude I would have shriveled at the thought. Bob White did not, thankfully, and we now have a very important record, not just of one man's life, but of a whole period of Irish history for too long neglected.
This book belongs on all shelves, in all libraries, in all schools.This is the story of a man, a movement who toiled on, against all odds, who stayed with his choices, he is not the last Republican, he has been a custodian of Republicanism, for generations yet to come. Read this book again and again."