"In a very real sense, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh can... be said to be the last, or one of the last Irish Republicans. Studies of the Provisional movement to date have invariably focused more on the Northerners and the role of people like Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. But an understanding of them is not possible without appreciating where they came from and from what tradition they have broken. Ruairí Ó Brádaigh is that tradition and that is why this account of his life and politics is so important." -from the foreword by Ed Moloney, author of A Secret History of the IRA
Since the mid-1950s, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh has played a singular role in the Irish Republican Movement. He is the only person who has served as chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army, as president of the political party Sinn Féin, and to have been elected, as an abstentionist, to the Dublin parliament. Today, he is the most prominent and articulate spokesperson of those Irish Republicans who reject the peace process in Northern Ireland. His rejection is rooted in his analysis of Irish history and his belief that the peace process will not achieve peace. Instead it will support the continued partition of Ireland and result in continued, inevitable, conflict.
The child of Irish Republican veterans, Ó Brádaigh has led IRA raids, been arrested and interned, escaped and been "on the run," and even spent a period of time on a hunger strike. An articulate spokesman for the Irish Republican cause, he has at different times been excluded from Northern Ireland, Britain, the United States, and Canada. He was a key figure in the secret negotiation of a bilateral IRA-British truce. His "Notes" on these negotiations offer special insight to the 1975 truce, the IRA cease-fires of the 1990s, and the current peace process in Ireland.
Ó Brádaigh has been a staunch defender of the traditional Republican position of abstention from participation in the parliaments in Dublin, Belfast, and Westminster. When Sinn Féin voted to recognize these parliaments in 1970, he led the walkout of the party convention and spearheaded the creation of Provisional Sinn Féin. He served as president of Provisional Sinn Féin until 1983, when he was forced from the position by his successor, Gerry Adams. In 1986, with Adams as its president, Provisional Sinn Féin recognized the Dublin parliament. Ó Brádaigh led another walkout and later became president of Republican Sinn Féin, a position he still holds.