When the death of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh was announced to the Irish people and to the world, last Thursday afternoon, we were struck by a deep sense of loss, as with the passing of a father. The affairs that had seemed so important and so pressing that morning were now thought of as work for afterwards. Now was the time to contemplate a great and noble life lived, and the future struggle that he has passed on to us.
For most of us, Ruairí had been there forever. A legend of the Irish Republican Army and of the Republican Movement as a whole. He was the rock that everyone knew would never waver or falter. The Song of the Sirens had no effect on his resolute ears - even when they played that most seductive of tunes – seats in England’s parliaments and assemblies. For all his resolute determination, everybody knew him as the most kind and sympathetic of men. Not only person to person, but also on the grand political scale. It was this very sympathy that led him, along with Daithí Ó Conaill, to develop Éire Nua. They had no desire to see their fellow countrymen marched over and humiliated. Ó Brádaigh wished to see the northern Protestants take hold of their own destiny, and to remember the great cause of their forefathers – to break the connection with England.
The Republican Movement, in the 20th Century, was the one truly democratic institution in Ireland. Men and women were not judged on who their fathers were, but on there own merits. The barman or the butcher’s apprentice could expect to reach the highest ranks – as could those with a university education. The Republican Movement did not look over its shoulder, to see if its law was in keeping with the consensus of liberals, or neo-liberals, or the rest of that sundry crew. Its law was forged in the democratic flame of the French Revolution, of 1798, 1867 and 1916, and in the ancient law of our Gaelic nation. It is the law of genuine community, of protecting the weak and striking down those who would dare to prey upon them. It is the law of every man and women having worthwhile labour to do, and nobody being excluded from the fruits of the harvest. That is the law that Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, and men and women of his calibre, upheld.
Ó Brádaigh knew that a nation is not a simple headcount of those of voting age. A nation is the ancient generations who’s art brought it into being, as well as the future generations who’s art may transcend all that went before. Do the living have the authority to cancel the noble deeds of their ancestors - with an “X” on a bit of paper? Do the living have the authority to set limits for the future generations? Thus far shall you go, and no further – without the consent of a reactionary minority – or even a majority of gombeen reactionaries. Do the living have the authority to caste aside our Irish language? The single greatest achievement of our people – that which made us a people. The language of our poets and law makers and the keepers of the annals of our ancient nation? Because its easier to truck and barter in some garbled version of the Saxon tongue? Ó Brádaigh said no, the living do not have such authority. The living have only one authority – to stand as men and women, or to crawl as the dogs of a foreign master.
As a lover of everything Irish, Ó Brádaigh was an internationalist. He knew that to be international, one must first be national. Those who neglect our Gaelic customs and games and language have nothing to offer other nations. They can never be internationalists. They are merely British provincials – completely uninteresting. In the 1950s, Ó Brádaigh, and the other patriots of his generation, were part of the great Revolutionary current, flowing across Africa and Asia and South America. It was a time when empire was under siege from the Wretched of the Earth on every front. Like most Revolutionaries of the 1950s, Ó Brádaigh maintained discipline in his dress and manners and speech. This generation had learned the discipline, methods and mental hardness of the imperialists – the better to defeat them. And defeat them they did. Abdel Nasser struck a deadly blow to the heart of the British Empire in 1956, setting the scene for a wholesale retreat of empire from long-conquered lands across the globe. The same intellectual hardness drove the enemy into full scale rout in the 1960s, and even in the imperialist heartlands themselves, the Masters of Men could get no respite. The Hunger Strikes of 1981 were a high point of this Revolutionary discipline of the mind, which had grown up among colonized peoples in the 1950s.
Nowhere was this intellectual strength more to be seen than in Ó Brádaigh’s speech to the 1986 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis. He rejected all demagogic appeals to the emotions, and set out a finely reasoned legal argument. Tragically, by the mid 1980s, the intellectual discipline of the 1950s was all but gone from the colonized world. Emotion gushed and flowed all around him – and carried the jeerers and the cat-callers head over heels, and into the camp of the English Crown.
Ó Brádaigh, as a military man, brought the truth of the battlefield into the sphere of political discourse. Yes, a general will use subterfuge and stratagem, but there is little room for lies in the heat of battle. The soldier walks with death, and death cannot be lied to. In dealing with the media – though most of them be cowardly curs, yelping to their masters’ desire – Ó Brádaigh knew that a lie would also be a lie to the honest people who watched their programmes and read their newspaper articles. The Revolutionary never lies to the people. He or she tells them the truth – even, or particularly, when they don’t want to hear it, or can’t even understand it. If a journalist overstepped the mark, Ó Brádaigh would kindly, but firmly, reminded the journalist that military matters were not to be discussed. And he was respected for this – unlike those who have made a career of their lies.
In 1983, Ruairí had thought to pass the flame to a younger generation of Republican leaders. That generation was found wanting. Ruairí bent his back, once more, to the work, making sure that the flame would not be extinguished and denied to future generations. Last Thursday, he passed on the flame for the last time. A new and better generation feels its warm glow in their hearts and in their strong arms. The courage, sense of duty, and love of Ireland’s honour that burned in Ruairí’s noble breast, till he drew his last breath, urges Ireland’s youth to an even greater and nobler deed.
Soon, the mortal remains of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh will join the dust that is the sacred soil of Éireann. That sacred soil, which the comprador misrulers of Ireland see nothing in - but pieces of coin. We Republicans, when we look at our land, see the priceless shrine of our martyrs. Our eternal martyrs, who shine forever as the brilliant galaxy of our souls. We see in our land the future happiness and prosperity of our people – all our people, not just a tiny privileged minority. This is the cause of Tone and Pearse and Davitt and Connolly. It is the noble cause that Ruairí Ó Brádaigh would not allow to be bartered and sold. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam ró-dhílis, agus i measc laochra na nGael go raibh sé.
Is mian le Páirtí Cummanach na Poblachta ár gcomhbhrón a chur in iúl dá bhean Patsy agus dá chlann uile, comh maith lena chomrádaithe i nGlúiseacht na Poblachta.
Páirtí Cummanach na Poblachta
7ú Meitheamh 2013