I never met Ruairi O Bradaigh. The nearest I got was on a ferry from Cherbourg to Rosslare, as we returned from a holiday in France. Getting into his car and waiting for the boat to dock, his familiar semi-smiling front teeth were the only thing that distinguished him from the dozens of other drivers.
His death and funeral were in the news yesterday, as the TV showed the gardai clashing with members of the funeral party. We weren’t given details of why, but the picture was so reminiscent of similar clashes between mourners and the RUC over the years of the Troubles, it was like a brief dip into a time warp. The RUC used to make the display of beret and gloves on the coffin of the dead IRA man or woman an excuse for scenes that would, to quote Peter Brooke in a different context, have disgraced a tribe of cannibals.
Like the Bourbons, the gardaí appear to have forgotten nothing and learnt nothing. The echoes of the past that such scenes evoke will not be lost on young men and women today, and the primitive activity of the gardaí, whatever the provocation (if any) will hardly win the sympathy of those who were intent on burying a man they considered an Irish patriot. As so often in the past, the forces of law and order have stupidly played the role of recruiting sergeant.