Presidential Oration at Unveiling of RÓB Memorial

A full and comprehensive report of the event will be in the June, 2016 issue of SAOIRSE: The Voice of the Republican Movement. Photographs of the commemoration can be seen here. A video will be uploaded here in the coming weeks. The following is the transcript of President Des Dalton’s speech delivered on the day.

Ruairí Ó Brádaigh embodied the essence of Revolutionary Irish Republicanism. He personified both its nobility and honour. Ruairí Ó Brádaigh was an implacable enemy of tyranny in all its forms. Those of us who were privileged to have known Ruairí as a friend and comrade were inspired by his vision, eloquence and his sense of duty. His biographer Professor Robert White characterised him in the following terms:

“Ruairí Ó Brádaigh has also kept his principles. At various points in his Republican career he had opportunities to take the easy way out, to compromise. […] Ruairí Ó Brádaigh’s life may be summarized in one Irish word, found in the title of his biography of Tom Maguire, ‘dílseacht – fidelity, loyalty, sincerity, love.’”

For Ruairí Ó Brádaigh there was but one definition of Irish freedom. For him there was but one straight and true path leading to the All-Ireland Republic of Easter Week. We come here to mourn the loss of Ruairí but we also come to celebrate his long and rich life. It was a life marked by unselfish devotion to the cause of Irish freedom. It was a life set apart by his sense of duty, honour and the intellectual rigour that he brought to the Republican Movement. Indeed often would Ruairí quote these lines from Louisa May Alcott, which are inscribed on the headstone of the tireless champion of Republican prisoners and the working class Charlotte Despard:

“I slept, and dreamed that life was beauty; I woke, and found that life was duty.”

Coupled with all of this was Ruairí’s deep humanity. He was a man whose empathy and compassion for the downtrodden and oppressed knew no boundaries of race or creed.

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. Of a proud Republican heritage inherited from both his father Matt and his mother May, since 1950 he served at every level of the Republican Movement, and from 1956 took on the onerous responsibilities of national leadership with only short intervals right up to his death. 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 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.

Ruairí Ó Brádaigh was no narrow nationalist, he was a man of broad vision and intellect, he was conscious of Ireland’s place in the wider struggle of humanity for a world based on political, social and economic democracy and justice. Writing in the booklet Aíslíng published by Sinn Féin to mark the 60th Anniversary of the 1916 Rising he wrote:

“Irish Republicans are in the broad stream of the world-wide movement of progressive forces for the achievement of the rights of man. Here the dispossessed and economically exploited peoples of the former colonies of the Third World stand with us on the world stage in our struggle for peace with justice.”

Writing on the eve of the 1916 Rising P.H. Pearse wrote of the failure of leadership displayed by those who had led nationalist Ireland for the 25 years leading up to 1916, these words can be applied to the Ireland of the last 95 years:

“The men who have led Ireland for 25 years have done evil and they are bankrupt. They are bankrupt in policy, bankrupt in credit, bankrupt now even in words. They have nothing to propose to Ireland, no way of wisdom, no counsel of courage. When they speak, they speak only untruth and blasphemy. Their utterances are no longer the utterances of men. They are the mumblings and gibberings of lost souls.”

Ruairí Ó Brádaigh shared with the 1916 leaders a belief and faith in the destiny of the Irish people and their right to fulfill and express their capabilities as a free nation. Anything less than this is unworthy of the sacrifice of the generations that have gone before. The Ireland that we seek is one that fulfills the ideals set out in the Proclamation of 1916. Our duty is to complete that work of those that have gone before us. That would be the message that Ruairí Ó Brádaigh would have for those gathered here. That is the most fitting monument we can erect to him.

Speaking at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis of 1981, in the shadow of the heroic 1981 hunger strikes Ruairí Ó Brádaigh reminded the Ard Fheis of the debt that was owed and the raod that remained to be travelled, they are words that are equally valid for the Ireland of 2016:

“We must leave this Ard Fheis in the historic year of 1981, for it has already gone down in Irish history due to the self-sacrifice, generosity of spirit and idealistic dedication of our comrades in prison, clear in our minds as to where we are going and how we are going to get there. There is no panacea, no short cut, no magic means, only the hard progressive grind forward. We have been given the lead this year once again by the most heroic generation of Irish people yet. They told us last year what they would do and they were people of their word and they did it in full measure.

Let us leave here determined to emulate them in our own way. Nothing less will be worthy of their suffering and sacrifice.”

Let us continue on the high road to the All-Ireland Republic!

An Phoblact Abú


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