Ref NoPOL28
TitleThe Ruairí Ó Brádaigh Papers
DescriptionThe Ruairí Ó Brádaigh papers relate primarily to his involvement in the Republican Movement. The collection contains a small number of items relating to 'The Border Campaign'; a large number of items relating to the 1975 cease-fire and related events; some other material relating Ó Brádaigh's time as President of Provisional Sinn Fein and some items including letters to newspapers which look back on earlier events such as the meeting between leading Republicans and Protestant clergy men in Feakle, Co. Clare. The material relating to the 1975 cease fire and talks on a bi-lateral truce between the Republican Movement and the British Government consists primarily of notes taken by Ó Brádaigh at the time of the talks. These notes sometimes erroneously described as 'minutes' relate to face to face meetings between the representatives of the Republican Movement and representatives of the British Government and also contacts between the two parties carried out through an intermediary. The notes were taken by hand at the time of the meetings by Ó Brádaigh and subsequently typed. There appear to be no major differences between the content of the handwritten notes and the typed versions. Some of the handwritten notes are very rough and were not typed up.
Date1933, 1956-2005
Extent108 items
ArrangementAt the highest level the items in this collection have been arranged according to either the events they relate to, for example 'The Border Campaign', or in some cases to a broader subject area for example 'Policy documents and International Relations'. Within each series items are arranged chronologically. In the case of the series relating to the 1975 I.R.A. cease-fire items are further divided between 'Hand-written' notes, 'typed' notes and 'related material.'
Administrative HistoryRuairí Ó Brádaigh was born Peter Roger Casement Brady on 2 October 1932 in County Longford in the Irish Midlands. Both Ruairí's parents, Matt Brady and May Caffrey, had been involved on the Republican side in the War of Independence. Ruairí was named after Sir Roger Casement who was executed after a failed attempted to land arms in Ireland before the 1916 rising, Ruairí being the Irish form of Roger. Matt Brady and May Caffery had married in 1926. Before their marriage both worked for the County Longford Board of Health, but because an employee could not supervise a spouse Matt Brady resigned his position. Matt Brady who suffered all his life from the effects of multiple gunshot wounds sustained during the War of Independence later served as an independent Republican councillor on Longford County Council.

Ruairí Ó Brádaigh had one sister Mary, born in 1929, and one brother Sean, born in 1937. In 1934 the family moved to a house off Battery Road in Longford Town. The children attended Melview National School two miles outside Longford town. Matt Brady died in 1942 while the children were still in primary school, and two years later May Caffrey Brady married the principal of the school Patrick Twohig. In 1946 Ruairí Ó Brádaigh won a scholarship which covered half his fees to St.Mel's secondary school in Longford. While at school Ó Brádaigh pursued his interest in the Republican movement by reading many books on the subject including Tom Barry's Guerrilla Days in Ireland. During his school days he also attended 'Irish College' in the Gaeltacht.

In 1950 Ó Brádaigh enrolled in University College Dublin and began studying for a commerce degree. Ó Brádaigh joined Sinn Fein soon after arriving in Dublin and some months later he also joined the Irish Republican Army. Since the end of the Civil War in 1923 the I.R.A. had been intermittently active, launching a bombing campaign in Britain in 1939. A number of its members had been executed during the 1940s in both the United Kingdom and the Irish Free-State; others had died on Hunger strike. By the time Ó Brádaigh joined the I.R.A. this campaign was over and the organisation was relatively inactive.

Ó Brádaigh graduated from U.C.D. in 1954 and took-up a position in Roscommon Town as a vocational school teacher. He also became training officer for the South Roscommon I.R.A. During this time while the I.R.A. weren't engaged in offensive operations they were raiding military barracks in Northern Ireland and Britain in order to get arms. In 1955 Ó Brádaigh was elected to the I.R.A.'s executive and he also led a raid on Aborfield an army base in Britain. While the raiders successfully made off with some weapons these were later recovered by the authorities and some of the raiders were arrested. Ó Brádaigh managed to avoid arrest and returned to Ireland.

In 1956 the I.R.A. launched what became know as 'The Border Campaign', the aim of the campaign was the removal of the border dividing Ireland. The majority of I.R.A. operations took place in border areas of Northern Ireland. No significant operations were carried out against the authorities of the Republic of Ireland, or in Britain. The scale of violence during 'The Border Campaign' was no where near the scale of violence experienced during the post 1969 'Troubles'. In all there were less than 20 fatalities on all sides. In December 1956 Ó Brádaigh was involved in an attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary barracks in Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh, north of the border. During the attack one R.U.C. officer was killed. Ó Brádaigh was arrested south of the border soon after the raid and sentenced to six months in prison. While he was serving his time in Mountjoy jail in Dublin there was a general election in the Republic of Ireland. Sinn Fein ran a number of candidates who if elected would refuse to take their seats in Leinster House, following a long standing policy of abstaining from participation in parliaments that didn't represent the entire island of Ireland. Ó Brádaigh was one of four Sinn Fein candidates elected, winning a seat in the Longford-Westmeath constituency. During this time, the government of the Republic of Ireland was holding I.R.A. suspects without trial in a practice known as internment. Interned prisoners were held in an army camp at The Curragh in County Kildare. When Ó Brádaigh's six month sentence had finished he was immediately interned at the Curragh. In September 1958 after spending more than 18 months in captivity Ó Brádaigh escaped from The Curragh with an other prisoner Daithi O'Connell. Ó Brádaigh was 'on the run' until the closure of The Curragh in March 1959 when all remaining internees were released. Because he had no outstanding criminal convictions against him with the end of internment Ó Brádaigh was able to appear in public again. However in November 1959 he was arrested again in Roscommon, convicted and sentenced to six months in prison under the Offences Against the State Act. Ó Brádaigh was released in May 1960, and the following year he sought re-election to Leinster House, buthe failed to hold his seat. During 'The Border Campaign', Ó Brádaigh held a number of positions in the I.R.A., he served on the Army Council and held the position of Chief of Staff. After the Border Campaign was called off in 1962 Ó Brádaigh resigned as Chief of Staff and returned to his teaching position in Roscommon.

Ó Brádaigh continued to be involved in the Republican Movement through out the 1960s. During this time the movement was attempting to broaden its appeal by adopting more left-wing and socialist policies. While Ó Brádaigh wasn't opposed to this social programme per se he was concerned that it would divert the Republican Movement from its primary aim of a 32 county republic. In 1969 both the I.R.A. and Sinn Fein split over the issue of absentionism. Ó Brádaigh was part of a group opposed to ending the policy of Sinn Fein candidates not taking their seats at Leinster house if elected. This group formed the Provisional Irish Republican Army, while the other faction became known as the Official Irish Republican Army. The political wing of each group became Provisional Sinn Fein and Official Sinn Fein. Ó Brádaigh was initially a member of the Army Council of the Provisional I.R.A. and was also elected as president of Provisional Sinn Fein. It is not clear how long Ó Brádaigh remained on the Army Council, certainly he was more active in the political wing of the movement and in a July 1971 interview he commented 'I am head of the political wing. Military questions, as such, I am not competent to answer.'

August 1969 marked the beginning of what became know as 'The Troubles'. British soldiers were sent to Northern Ireland to restore order after serious sectarian strife. Initially British soldiers were welcomed by the nationalist community of Northern Ireland; however, by 1970 relations between the nationalist community and British Soldiers had deteriorated. The Provisional I.R.A. also became more and more active during this period. For detailed description of the Provisional I.R.A. and its involvement in 'The Troubles' see Armed Struggle - The History of The IRA by Richard English.

In 1972 the I.R.A. called a brief cease fire and entered into negotiation with the British Government, in Christmas 1974 they called another cease fire which led to prolonged talks aimed at agreeing terms for a bi-lateral truce. Ruairí Ó Brádaigh was heavily involved in these talks, representing the Republican Movement at meetings with representatives of the British Government. The talks which continued sporadically from January 1975 to February 1976 ended in failure. From the Republican point of view a major stumbling block was the British Government's unwillingness to give a definite commitment to withdraw from Northern Ireland. During this period Ó Brádaigh was also involved in formulating a detailed Sinn Fein policy document known as 'Eire Nua', the program was formally launched in January 1971. The social dimension of the document, which was influenced by ancient Irish Brehon Law, envisaged common ownership of property and the nationalization of key industries. It also envisaged a federal system of Government for Ireland, with each of Ireland's four provinces having its own parliament.

Throughout the 1970s, Ó Brádaigh served as President of Sinn Fein and was in many respects the public face of the Republican Movement. He travelled widely in Europe and North America promoting and representing the movement. Meanwhile the provisional I.R.A. continued its campaign in Northern Ireland and Britain. Sectarian violence also increased in Northern Ireland during the 1970s. The leadership of both Sinn Fein and the I.R.A. came to be more and more dominated by members from Northern Ireland. In 1983 Ó Brádaigh stepped down as president of Sinn Fein and was replaced by Gerry Adams. Over the following years another split in the Sinn Fein emerged again over the issue of abstentionism. In 1986 the Sinn Fein Ard Feis voted in favour of dropping the policy with respect to Leinster House. In response to the dropping of the policy Ó Brádaigh and a number of other Sinn Fein members some of whom had also instrumental in the formation of the Provisional I.R.A. left Provisional Sinn Fein and formed Republican Sinn Fein. Although it wasn't initially apparent another military grouping which became known as I.R.A. Continuity Army Council or Continuity I.R.A. was also formed at this time. Continuity I.R.A. may be regarded as the military wing of Republican Sinn Fein. This group had carried out a number of bombings and other operations in Northern Ireland since the Provisional I.R.A. called a cease-fire in 1994. However the group's activities are on far smaller scale that those of the provisional I.R.A. prior to 1994 and the groups membership is also presumed to be much smaller.

Ruairí Ó Brádaigh remains as president of Republican Sinn Fein. He is a staunch critic of Provisional Sinn Fein and the Good Friday Agreement. Through out his life Ó Brádaigh has remained committed to abstentionism and is also committed to a 32 County republic with a federal system of government as outlined in Eire Nua. While his critics regard him as uncompromising Ó Brádaigh and his supporters point to his consistency and commitment to his principles.
CodePersonNameDatesParallel forms of name
DS/UK/34Ó Brádaigh; Ruairí (1932-2013); Irish Republican political leader1932-2013
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