Ruairi O’Bradaigh

Most younger people will be unfamiliar with the name Ruairi O’Bradaigh. He died yesterday.

He was a familiar figure in the 1970s. The Roscommon schoolteacher was a familiar figure in the 1970s and was often on TV alongside Sean MacStiofain.

It seems a lifetime ago. O’Bradaigh was President of Sinn Fein and MacStiofain  (English born John Stephenson) was Commander of Irish Republican Army. They were unlikely figures and I dont think were overly popular with northern nationalists, even those of a militant persuasion. To some extent O’Bradaighs Connachtness, Mac Stiofains Englishness and their combined Dublinness distanced them from political reality and the “front line”.

Yet O’Bradaigh is interesting. Despite the obvious look of an schoolteacher, complete with pioneer pin and fainne…he was a paramiltary man in the 1950s leading raids in England and across the border, during Operation Harvest…so he was a peculiar throwback to the old IRA (1916-1922) when young men were village schoolteachers by day and leading flying columns in the mountains by night.

When the new breed of northern Sinn Feiner, Gerry Adams took over the Leadership and the organisation went “legit”, O’Bradaigh looked even more out of his time, out of his depth and increasingly shrill as the voice of the breakaway, Republican Sinn Fein.

Yet in the mid 1970s he was involved in talks with Loyalist paramilitaries which were surprisingly far-sighted for the time. And they were scuppered by no less a waste of space than Conor Cruise O’Brien.

We talk about a Decade of Centenaries. Actually its a decade when people who were once powerful….die. Margaret Thatcher. Ruairi O’Bradaigh…..

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8 Responses to Ruairi O’Bradaigh

  1. Political Tourist says:

    Strange grouping Republican Sinn Fein.
    The grouping that got smaller as time went on.
    Seems by the time O’Bradaigh’s Belfast sidekick, D OC died, the game was up.
    And the younger Turks weren’t going to be saddle with nonsense like abstentionism.
    O’Bradaigh turned abstentionism into something out of the catholic mass, up there with the eucharist.
    In fact RSF came across like a holy order and ROB was it’s high priest.
    Still, ROB was correct on a number of points, one being the various branches of the provos would go their own way.
    Last i heard there was two RSF’s.
    Ah well, that’s the end of 1950s republicanism, can’t say it will be missed.

  2. weidm7 says:

    “Yet in the mid 1970s he was involved in talks with Loyalist paramilitaries which were surprisingly far-sighted for the time.”

    I don’t know much about this, would you mind talking a bit about it and/or pointing me to some sources where I could find out more?

      • weidm7 says:

        Can you be a bit more specific? I looked in Wikipedia and couldn’t find anything.

    • Political Tourist says:

      Think there was a really odd happening in Libya of all places.
      The provos were invited over to see Gaddafi regarding acquiring “gear”.
      The lads on arrival headed for the bar of the International Hotel only to meet the leadership of UDA already quaffing away.
      Or so the story goes.
      The provos early politics, if you could call it that, was all over place.
      All that bizarre stuff about the four provinces having regional Goverments.
      What in a country the size of Ireland.
      And of course abstensionism.
      The unionists and the Dev gang must have loved that idea.
      Sounded as though it was may on the hoof to give padding to what really was a military organization.

  3. And now Sinn Fein are the new stickies – or is that Stickiagh Nua? O’Bradiagh was a man of principle – which is probably why the Belfast mobsters wanted him out.

  4. Political Tourist says:

    Although 10 Presbyterians in the leadership of the republican movement would have been worth a thousand mass goers.

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