SÍNN FÉIN has paid tribute to Rita O'Hare, the party's former representative in the United States, who passed away on Friday at the age of 80.
Ms O'Hare, who held numerous roles within the party, was described by Sínn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald as 'a genuine patriot'.
"Sinn Féin has lost a talented and valued comrade and we have all lost a very special and very dear friend," said Ms McDonald.
Born in Belfast to a Catholic mother and Protestant socialist father, Ms O'Hare was a civil rights campaigner before becoming a high-profile figure in the republican movement.
In 1972, she fled to Dublin after being released on bail following her arrest over her involvement in the attempted murder of a British Army warrant officer in Belfast a year earlier.
She later served three years in Limerick Prison for attempting to smuggle explosives to an IRA member and was released in 1979.
However, she was not extradited back to Northern Ireland following her release due to a 1978 Dublin High Court ruling that her alleged offences in the North were political.
Over subsequent years, Ms O'Hare served as Editor of Sinn Féin newspaper An Phoblacht, the party's Director of Publicity, General Secretary and representative to the US.
'Integral part of Sínn Féin'
"I am deeply saddened by the news that Rita O'Hare — a powerhouse within Sinn Féin and the Irish republican struggle — has died," said Ms McDonald on Saturday.
"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.
Heartbroken to announce the death of Rita O’Hare. Heartfelt condolences to Brendan and all the family. Ireland has lost a genuine patriot. Sinn Féin has lost a talented and valued comrade. We have all lost a very dear, beloved friend. Suaimhneas sioraí dá hanam. #Rita pic.twitter.com/QDDy8guU4q
— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) March 4, 2023
"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."
She added: "She was a key figure in building and sustaining US support during crucial years of the Peace Process, working with the representatives of various US administrations.
"She was a tireless, assiduous and effective worker and in whatever capacity she served, she encouraged the highest standards among her colleagues."
"Ireland has lost a genuine patriot. Sinn Féin has lost a talented and valued comrade and we have all lost a very special and very dear friend," concluded Ms McDonald.
Irish-American politicians from the Democratic Party, Richard Neal and Kevin J. Boyle, also paid tribute to Ms O'Hare.
Congressman Mr Neal, Representative for the 1st District of Massachusetts, said: "I am deeply saddened by the passing of my great friend, Rita O'Hare.
"She was an iconic figure whose contributions to peace, justice, and reconciliation on the island of Ireland will never be forgotten."
I am deeply saddened by the passing of my great friend, Rita O’Hare. She was an iconic figure whose contributions to peace, justice, and reconciliation on the island of Ireland will never be forgotten.
— Rep. Richard Neal (@RepRichardNeal) March 4, 2023
Meanwhile, Mr Boyle, a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from the 172nd district, praised Ms O'Hare for her recent work in helping to prevent a hard border post-Brexit.
"RIP to my good friend, Irish patriot Rita O'Hare," he tweeted.
"When history books are written about protecting the Good Friday Agreement, particularly post Brexit, Rita will be key.
"She labored hard & effectively in the US to prevent a hard border returning to Ireland."
Ms O'Hare will be laid to rest at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin on Tuesday, March 7.