The funeral has taken place of senior Sinn Féin official Rita O’Hare, who was described by party leader Mary Lou McDonald as an “unstoppable force for Irish freedom”.
Ms O’Hare, who died on Friday at the age of 80, was a key figure in the party as it moved to end the Provisional IRA’s armed campaign and negotiate a peace deal.
The Belfast-born activist was also a former IRA Volunteer who was ‘on the run’ in Dublin for several years.
Involved in the early civil rights movement, she was jailed for three years in the 26 Counties for her role in the armed struggle An attempt to extradite her to the north of Ireland failed after the High Court in Dublin ruled in 1978 that her actions were political.
She held several positions within Sinn Féin’s head office in Dublin before moving to Washington DC, where she headed up the party’s fundraising and lobbying activities in the USA.
Delivering the main address at her funeral at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin on Tuesday, Ms McDonald paid tribute to her colleague. She pledged to “move heaven and earth” to achieve a united Ireland in tribute to her memory.
A coffin draped in the Irish flag was carried to the crematorium. During the funeral service inside, Ms McDonald credited Ms O’Hare with a central role in building Sinn Féin as she described her as “arguably the leading female republican of her generation”.
“You knew that your place was to never know your place,” she said.
“An inheritor of that great tradition of unmanageable revolutionaries, an exemplar of that stubborn, relentless courage, who would in turn pass the torch to the next generation.”
The Sinn Féin leader added: “Rita O’Hare and her generation have made it possible for us to achieve the Republic in our time. That is her gift. Their gift to us.
“And she would give anything to be here on the day that we get our referendum on Irish unity, she would give anything to see the day that we end partition and now she relies on us to carry on, to grasp the moment, to seize the purpose of our generation and to make it happen.
“Well, we will move heaven, we will move earth to finish that noble journey.
“So, I want you to know that we’ve got this Rita, we will not let you down and, until we meet again, sleep well our leader, our comrade, our dearest, dearest friend.”
Other Sinn Féin figures also paid tribute on Saturday. Former Sinn Féin Assembly member Martina Anderson said she was “heartbroken over the death of my comrade and inspiration Rita O’Hare”.
She said: “Speaking to her in her home only a few day ago is an exchange I will cherish forever. Rita was a rebel, a patriot a leader, a true friend.”
Posting on social media, US politician Richard Neal said he was “deeply saddened by the passing of my great friend, Rita O’Hare.
“She was an iconic figure whose contributions to peace, justice, and reconciliation on the island of Ireland will never be forgotten.”