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Brón ar an mbás: Joe O'Neill RIP

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Veteran Republican Joe O’Neill, 76, Bundoran, a leading figure in the Republican Movement in Ireland over the past 50 years, died late last night (Wednesday) in hospital.


For almost 50 years he was one of the main republican figures in the north west if not the entire country and was an honorary life vice-president of Republican Sinn Féin at the time of his death.

He died circa 11pm in Sligo Regional Hospital.


He is predeceased by his wife Mary, who died in April 2012. He is survived by his brother Eoin Roe, sisters Cait and Ann and a large circle of relatives most of them based in Donegal or Tyrone.

In 1970 O’Neill was part of a famous walk out from a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis at the Mansion House and his views remained consistent. He was vehemently opposed to the decision in 1986 by Sinn Féin to take seats in the Dáil, thereby recognising partition as he saw it and his philosophy essentially remained “Brits Out” throughout his political life.


In 1986 Joe O’Neill was one of the former Sinn Féin members involved in the famous walk-out that saw the historic split in that party and the setting up of Republican Sinn Féin. The walk-out was taken in response to Sinn Féin’s decision at its 1986 Ard Fheis to end its policy of abstentionism and to allow elected Sinn Féin Teachtaí Dála take their seats in Dáil Éireann. There is disagreement on the number of people who walked out, but Joe O’Neill was considered one of the main people involved in that decision and walk-out along with Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill.


O’Neill was a former treasurer of Republican Sinn Féin and remained, until his death yesterday, a senior figure in Republican Sinn Féin for the last 27 years.


In June of this year O’Neill spoke in Roscommon at the graveside of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh the first President of Republican Sinn Féin. (Ó Brádaigh, had been President of Sinn Féin from 1970 to 1983).


In local politics Joe O’Neill was a member of the then Bundoran Urban District Council, losing his seat in the 1999 local elections.


In the early 1970’s his arrest by gardaí prompted protest marches in Ballyshannon and a serious riot ensued with the garda station, then located at College Street, Ballyshannon attacked.


O’Neill was a keen gaelic footballer in his youth and won five Donegal senior championships with St. Joseph’s, a Ballyshannon/Bundoran amalgam. He was also a noted ballad singer, playing with the locally renowned Fenian Four group.


His nephew, Cllr Barry O’Neill, a Donegal Fine Gael county councillor, told the Donegal Democrat that his family would “miss him dearly”.


“Joe was a great person, a fantastic uncle and a great family person. Joe had strong Republican values, beliefs and represented people in public life and indeed outside of public life.


“Joe was a distinguished club footballer with St. Joseph’s, also represented Donegal in football at minor level in the 1950’s. He was a great supporter of Donegal football and indeed Tyrone football, as our family have strong links with Tyrone. We will miss Joe dearly,” Cllr O’Neill stated.


Funeral arrangements are as yet not confirmed, but it is anticipated that his funeral will take place this Saturday.



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Thousands flock to Republican Joe O’Neill’s funeral


Monday, October 07, 2013


Upwards on 1,000 mourners turned out for the funeral of one of the founding members of Provisional Sinn Féin and a “towering figure of Irish Republicanism” who was buried in brilliant sunshine in Co Donegal yesterday.



Veteran Republican Joe O’Neill, 76, who came from Bundoran, died in Sligo General Hospital on Wednesday night and was laid to rest in Ballyshannon after Mass in St Joseph’s Church yesterday.

More than 100 gardaí including armed detectives mounted a discreet security operation for the funeral that passed off peacefully.

Checkpoints were set up on the neighbouring border roads with county Fermanagh as the funeral took place.

When the coffin was brought to the grave it was flanked by 10 masked men and two women who were dressed in full military uniform.

In his homily Father Raymond Munster paid tribute to the former Bundoran, balladeer, publican and GAA star’s generosity to the poor.

“He was always very helpful to those who were in need,” he said.

In a graveside oration, Republican Sinn Féin spokesperson Mary Ward said Joe O’Neill was a towering figure of Irish Republicanism and embodied the very essence of the Republican tradition.

“He set high standards of commitment, duty, honour and loyalty to the cause of Irish freedom.

“For Joe the principles of freedom were very clear.

“He dismissed the cult of the personality and always warned of the danger of merely following the man or the woman over the cause of Irish national independence.

“His involvement with the Republican Movement in the 1950s and remained faithful until death.”

O’Neill was a close ally of the late Republican Sinn Féin leader Ruairí Ó Bradaigh, who died in June and was one of the speakers at his grave.

O’Neill was instrumental in maintaining the integrity of the Republican Movement in 1986, and was a former vice president and treasurer of Sinn Féin Poblachtach.

In 1970 he was part of the group that walked out of the Sinn Féin Árd Fheis in the Mansion House in Dublin, a move which led to the establishment of Provisional Sinn Féin.

Sixteen years later he joined Ó Brádaigh in another Sinn Féin walkout out over the decision to take seats in Leinster House.

Mr O’Neill was a former Bundoran Urban district councillor and lost his seat in 1999.


© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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