Page last updated at 17:15 GMT, Monday, 28 September 2009 18:15 UK

Republican leader to stand down

Ruairi O Bradaigh is standing down for reasons of age and health
Ruairi O Bradaigh is standing down for reasons of age and health

The leader of Republican Sinn Fein, Ruairi O Bradaigh, has said he is standing down for reasons of age and health.

Mr O Bradaigh, 76, has led the party since it was formed after splitting from Sinn Fein in 1986.

Republican Sinn Fein is a small fringe party which has just one councillor in the Republic of Ireland.

It is believed to be closely linked to the Continuity IRA although the party says that is not the case.

Mr O Bradaigh said on Monday he would not condemn the murder by the Continuity IRA of Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon last March.

"I realise that this type of activity will continue as long as the British government is in Ireland," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

After the murders by dissident republicans of Constable Carroll and two soldiers outside an Army base in Antrim, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness described the killers as "traitors" who had "betrayed the people of Ireland".

However, Mr O Bradaigh said Sinn Fein "have accepted British rule and they are administering British rule in Ireland".

He added: "I wouldn't regard them as being republicans at all at this stage."

Mr O Bradaigh is originally from County Longford where he qualified as a teacher.

He became a TD in the 1950s and was elected for Sinn Fein on an abstentionist ticket.

Split

He is believed to have been chief of staff of the IRA for two periods before it split in 1969. In 1973, he was sentenced to six months in prison for PIRA membership.

In 1983, Gerry Adams succeeded him as president of Sinn Fein. In 1986, Mr O Bradaigh led the split from Sinn Fein, famously walking out of a party conference.

He left because he feared that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness would lead the Provisional IRA towards a constitutional path which, he believed, would never deliver a united Ireland.

The roots of the fallout were over a decision to enter the Irish parliament, the Dail, if elected, thus ending the party's policy of abstention.

He went on to set up Republican Sinn Fein which he claimed "offered a home" to Sinn Fein dissidents.



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