Veteran hard-line republican Ruairi O’Bradaigh has stepped down as president of Republican Sinn Fein “for reasons of age and health”.
O’Bradaigh (77), who has not veered from his policy that Irish people should have the right to use force in the cause of unity, will be stepping down at the RSF ard fheis in November, when he will seek the office of patron of the organisation.
A spokesman for the group said: “We can’t see anyone opposing him for the post of patron.
“We are sad that he is stepping down after his service to the organisation, but it is solely his decision and we have to respect that.”
In his statement Mr O’Bradaigh confirmed: “I will not be standing for the position of president of Republican Sinn Fein at the forthcoming ard fheis for reasons of age and health.
“I will, however, be going forward for membership of an ard chomhairle and for the office of patron of the organisation.”
He added: “I wish to record my appreciation and thanks to all who worked with me over the past 60 years.”
Originally from Co Longford where he qualified as a teacher, Mr O’Bradaigh joined the IRA in 1951, was a training officer and sat on its ‘army council’.
In 1955 he led a daring raid on British Army barracks in Berkshire, seizing a vast array of arms and ammunition, most of which was recovered, after which he served six months in Mountjoy Jail and then was interned at the Curragh. During his time in prison he was elected TD for Longford-Westmeath but refused to sit in the Dail. He failed to be re-elected at the next poll.
In 1970 he and his hard-line colleagues famously walked out of the Sinn Fein ard fheis refusing to end the absentee policy from the Dail, after which Republican Sinn Fein was established and where he has remained ever since, insisting that Gerry Adams-led Sinn Fein had sold out on what he sees as the true principles of republicanism.
He has held firm to those ideals, and strongly opposes the Belfast Agreement, the St Andrews Agreement and the Assembly, claiming that they all copper-fasten the border and have delayed the prospects of a 32-county Irish Republic.
The RSF spokesman said that O’Bradaigh would be difficult to replace and that there would probably be a number of names in the ring for the election of a successor in the ard fheis on November 14-15. “His decision has been totally unexpected,” he added.