Angry scuffles between republicans and Gardai (police) marked the burial of Provisional Sinn Fein founder and former IRA Chief of Staff Ruairi O Bradaigh on Saturday.

The disturbances arose as the O Bradaigh family and a color party of 20 brought the coffin to the grave of St. Coman’s Cemetery in Roscommon town.

Gardai, wearing riot gear, photographed up to 1,800 mourners many of whom shouted at them to leave the graveyard.

Republican Sinn Fein President Des Dalton later accused the Gardai of “disrespecting the O Bradaigh family.” He criticized what he called “the disgraceful scenes from the forces of the state.”  

O Brádaigh, who died at the age of 80, was a former chief of staff of the IRA in the 1950s, and was a TD (member of Parliament) for Longford/Westmeath from 1957 to 1961.

He founded Provisional Sinn Fein in 1970 and Republican Sinn Fein in 1986. The latter organization was the political wing of the Continuity IRA. He opposed the Good Friday Agreement. He retired as president of Republican Sinn Fein in 2009.

O Bradaigh was born Peter Roger Casement Brady, the son of committed Republicans, and when he became a student and joined the IRA he Hibernicized his name to Ruairi O Bradaigh.

He never deviated during his long Republican career from his profound belief that the British presence was the sole cause of all Ireland’s woes.

He put his beliefs into violent practice, most notably as an IRA leader in its most violent period, the early 1970s, and later as political head of one of the dissident Republican groups which continue their violence today.   

He was once described by the FBI as “a national security threat, a dedicated revolutionary undeterred by threat or personal risk.”

A devout Catholic who abstained from alcohol, he moved in his teens to Dublin where he took a degree in commerce. Joining Sinn Fein and the IRA at an early age, he was involved in the small-scale and ill-supported campaign launched by the IRA in 1956.

When The Troubles erupted in the North in 1969, the Republican movement split. O Bradaigh and other veterans took charge of the larger and more militant faction, the Provisional IRA. Though no longer an active gunman or bomber, he was one of the principal directors of the IRA.

By the mid-1970s, however, many militant northern Republicans tired of his leadership.

At a packed meeting in Dublin in 1986 the Adams-McGuinness faction sought to ditch decades of Republican tradition to allow Sinn Fein candidates to take seats in the Dublin parliament.

When the vote went against him, O Bradaigh and a small group of supporters shouldered their way out of the meeting, later announcing the formation of a new group which they called Republican Sinn Fein.