Scuffles broke out as Ruairí Ó Brádaigh was laid to rest in Roscommon on Saturday last.
Around 1,800 mourners turned out to pay their last respects to the former TD, Republican Sinn Féin president and IRA Chief of Staff, who was laid to rest in St Coman’s cemetary in Roscommon town.
Personnel from the Garda Emergency Response Unit flanked the funeral cortege as it made its way to the graveyard, while also photographing and recording the event which was attended by high profile figures from the republican movement.
There were also brief clashes between members of the funeral party and gardaí in riot gear, which delayed the start of graveside orations.
Republican Sinn Féin leader Des Dalton later commented on the garda presence, saying “we can take it as a testament to Ruairí that even in death the State still fears him”, before adding that “the heavy gang are alive and well but the republican movement is alive also.” Members of Mr Ó Brádaigh’s family also criticised the policing at the funeral.
Earlier, Fr Eugene McLoughlin told the congregation attending the bilingual requiem mass at the Sacred Heart Church in Roscommon that Mr Ó Brádaigh “had republican ideals which he inherited from his home in Longford. There were those who agreed with him and those who did not, but that has been the history of our country.
“He longed for a united, prosperous country where all would have employment. Sadly, we have come a long way from those lofty ideals.”
Speaking during the ceremony, Mr Ó Brádaigh’s son Conchúr said: “He was a kind, interested and gentle father and proud and interested in our achievements as we were in his.” In a reference to Protestant links in the family’s ancestory, he stated that his late father “did not have a sectarian bone in his body.” He also remarked on his father’s reputation for taking his time before signing forms, which caused one frustrated offical to quip: “That’s Ruairí Ó Broody - he will sign nothing. He wouldn’t even sign to get out of jail.”
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh served as a TD for the Longford-Westmeath constituency from 1957 to 1961, and was President of Sinn Féin from 1970 to 1983, before becoming President of Republican Sinn Féin in 1987 until his retirement in 2009. He was also Chief of Staff of the IRA for two terms between 1958 and 1959, and from 1960 to 1962. In later years he was noted for his opposition to the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Mr Ó Brádaigh is survived by his wife Patsy and their children Matt, Ruairí Óg, Deirdre, Conchúr, Eithne and Colm, and his brother Seán.