Disturbances at Ó Brádaigh funeral
Plain clothed and uniformed Gardaí maintain strong presence in Roscommon town
Members of the colour party at the funeral of former Republican Sinn Fein leader Ruairí Ó Brádaigh at the Sacred Heart Church, Roscommon, before his burial at to St. Coman’s Cemetery today. Photograph: Barry Cronin/PA Wire
Mourner Tom Lawlor (left) at the funeral of former Republican Sinn Féin leader Ruairí Ó Brádaigh at the Sacred Heart Church, Roscommon, before his burial at to St Coman’s Cemetery. Photograph: Barry Cronin/PA Wire
Gardaí and mourners clashed at the funeral of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh today.
Shortly after the coffin bearing the remains of the former president of Republican Sinn Féin was carried into St Coman’s cemetery in Roscommon town, gardaí in riot gear confronted mourners.
Officers were involved in a standoff for several minutes with some mourners which had accompanied the funeral procession on the route from the Church to the cemetery.
Over a dozen uniformed gardaí had surrounded the grave before the funeral procession arrived at the cemetery while members of the Emergency Response Unit had walked alongside the funeral procession as it continued from the Sacred Heart church to the graveyard.
While the funeral Mass was characterised by typical tributes to a loved father grandfather, teacher and neighbour , the Republican’s final journey to the cemetery outside the town was a more tense affair.
At the end of the mass his son Conchúr had criticised the “heavy handed and provocative” way the funeral had been policed and he appealed for the funeral procession be allowed proceed to the cemetery with the dignity “and the honour he is due as a Republican leader”.
Mourners had been told that there was “not a sectarian bone” in Ó Brádaigh’s body and his son pointed out that he was being laid to rest in the Protestant section of the cemetery alongside his wife’s family.
At the beginning of the Mass, Ó Brádaigh’s grandchildren carried a number of his possessions , including his glasses, his walking stick and book of poetry to the altar to symbolise different facets of his life.
Parish priest Fr Eugene McLoughlin told the congregation that while Ó Brádaigh was known by many people for his republican ideals he was also a devoted husband and father and a loving grandfather.
He had longed for a united Ireland where there would be employment or all and where the weaker members of society would be cared for and where there would be a strong Gaelic culture, said the priest.
He added that “sadly we have moved a long way from these lofty ideals” with many young people forced to emigrate and the gap between rich and poor widening.
There was tension as mourners walked behind the coffin in the blazing sun to the cemetery with some stewards wearing armbands of green white and gold and men clad in black trousers white shirts and black berets, most of them wearing Easter lilies appearing to object to the strong Garda presence.
At the cemetery mourners became angry as gardaí surrounded the grave and there were jeers and shouts for respect for the family.
After some jostling officers were pushed back and gardaí in riot gear raised shields and briefly confronted those involved in the melee.
Calm was restored after the “stewards” appealed to mourners to turn their backs to gardaí and form a circle to keep them from the grave.
Gardaí remained at the scene long after the graveside orations were delivered.
The president of Republican Sinn Féin, Des Dalton, who gave a graveside oration condemned what he described as disgraceful scenes at the funeral.
He said there had been total and complete disrespect shown to the family by forces of the State. “Even in death that same State fears him today”, he said to cheers.
Among the mourners were former trade union official Phil Flynn, the Republican Rose Dugdale, former Fianna Fáil junior minister Michael Finneran and sitting Fine Gael TD for Roscommon South Leitrim deputy Frank Feighan. The chief mourners were Mr Ó Brádaigh’s widow Patricia (Patsy) his children Mait, Ruairi Og, Deirdre, Conchúr, Eithne and Colm and his grandchildren.