Rita O'Hare with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at the 1998 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Dublin. RollingNews.ie file photo

Death of Rita O'Hare, 80

Rita O'Hare, for years one of the most prominent members of Sinn Féin and a key figure in the emergence and success of the peace process, has died at the age of 80.

O'Hare was for a number of years her party's representative to the United Staes and traveled extensively in the country to present Sinn Féin's position on an array of issues.

O'Hare, a Belfast native, died in Dublin where she had been living for more than half her life. A onetime member of the IRA, she was wanted in the North on a warrant for attempted murder dating back to the early 1970s.

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald described O’Hare as “genuine patriot” and a “powerhouse within Sinn Féin and the Irish republican struggle."

And that she was. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair once indicated that O'Hare was an essential party to the survival of the peace process.

As a member of Sinn Féin, O'Hare became editor of the newspaper An Phoblacht. She was the party's director of publicity, general secretary, and, ultimately, the party's representative to Washington.

She was born Rita McCulloch to a Catholic mother and Protestant father. She was married to Gerry O'Hare, a Belfast native and member of the IRA's Army Council during the first years of the Troubles. They had three children but their marriage ended. Rita O'Hare later married Brendan Brownly, a republican who also was a Belfast native but living in Dublin.

“Rita O’Hare has been an influential republican activist for decades and an important figure in the Irish peace process,” Mary Lou McDonald said.

“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.”

“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. 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.”

There will be additional reporting on the passing of Rita O'Hare in this week's print edition of the Echo.