By David Young, PA
Veteran republican Rita O’Hare has died at the age of 80.
The Belfast-born activist, who was involved in the early civil rights movement in the North, became one of the most high-profile on-the-run republicans during the Troubles, fleeing the region in 1972 having been arrested and bailed in connection with the attempted murder of a British soldier.
She was later jailed for three years in the Republic for involvement in an IRA arms smuggling bid.
The former editor of republican newspaper An Phoblacht, Ms O’Hare held several senior roles with Sinn Féin, including general secretary and director of publicity.
She also spent two decades in the United States as Sinn Féin’s senior representative across the Atlantic. In later years, she lived in Dublin.
Paying tribute, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald described her as a “powerhouse”.
“It is a sad day for republicans throughout the length and breadth of Ireland and for Rita’s many friends beyond these shores, particularly in the United States,” she said.
“But above all, this is a devastating loss for Rita’s husband Brendan, her children Terry, Frances, Rory and Ciaran, her grandchildren, great grandchildren, her brother Alan and members of the wider family.
“Rita O’Hare has been an influential republican activist for decades and an important figure in the Irish peace process.
“An integral part of the Sinn Féin leadership at important stages of the party’s development and during era-defining stages of the peace process, Rita worked with great drive, energy and ability for the unity of Ireland, for a more just society, and for the cause of peace and reconciliation.
“A highly intelligent and strategic political thinker, Rita was also an articulate communicator and skilled publicist who was to the fore in pushing the boundaries, allowing Sinn Féin to develop into the modern, successful and popular political party that it is today.
“Rita’s key role in these developments will be her enduring political legacy.”