Northern Ireland news

Veteran republican Francie Brolly (82) remembered as man of 'huge integrity'

Francie Brolly pictured at his grandson's confirmation on Wednesday, just hours before he died at home in Co Derry
Connla Young

VETERAN republican Francie Brolly has been described as a man of “huge integrity” following his sudden death.

The 82-year-old died at his family home near Dungiven, Co Derry in the early hours of Thursday.

It is believed he may have suffered a heart attack.

An ex-republican internee, Mr Brolly was a Sinn Féin assembly member for East Derry from 2003 to 2010, having previously sat as a councillor in Limavady.

He resigned from the party in 2018 over its stance on abortion and was later a founding member of pro-life republican party Aontú.

A former inter-county Gaelic footballer with Derry, he also played hurling and football for Dungiven.

His son Joe won an All-Ireland medal with the Oak Leaf County in 1993 and is a well-known GAA pundit.

The grandfather-of-13 retired more than two decades ago from teaching, having been on the staff of the former St Patrick’s High School in Dungiven.

Francie Brolly with his wife Anne, who he was married to for 51 years

Renowned as a musician and songwriter, he was also heavily involved with the promotion of the Irish language and until recent weeks taught Irish in Limavady and Dungiven.

His daughter Áine last night said her family has been left devastated by his death.

Just hours before he had attended a grandson’s confirmation in Belfast.

“He had a huge impact, not just on the family but the whole Dungiven community and further afield,” she said.

“He was a great man of integrity and always true to himself.

“He had a great intellect and was a great thinker.”

She said the father-of-five was a “special person” who was loved deeply by his family.

“He was a huge mentor to all of us,” she said.

Francie Brolly pictured with his son Joe, who was a formerAll-Ireland winner with Derry

"His one bit of advice to me was never do anything you would be ashamed to tell me about and I have tried my best to stick to it.”

Ms Brolly added that throughout his political career he had an impact on those he came into contact with.

“When he was a Sinn Féin MLA at Stormont I used to be shocked, he spoke to everybody, he was totally non-sectarian.

“He really cared about everybody and really cared about Ireland and had a powerful impact on everybody he met.”

Mr Brolly’s wife Anne, who is also a founding member of Aontú, is a former Sinn Féin mayor of Limavady who served on the council from 2001 to 2014.

The pair were married for 51 years, having tied the knot in 1968 after a whirlwind romance.

They were well known across Ireland as a singing act and regularly toured the country and the US, releasing eight albums.

Singer Cara Dillon, who is also from Dungiven, paid tribute to Mr Brolly last night on Facebook.

“It’s with a heavy heart that I leave Dungiven town today knowing that a pillar of the community has passed on,” she said.

“Peace and respect forever Francie Brolly.”

Interned in 1972, Mr Brolly spent almost three years in Long Kesh before being released.

He later wrote The H-Block Song, which includes the line “I’ll wear no convict’s uniform nor meekly serve my time”.

He stood as a candidate for Áontu in last year’s local government elections and party leader Peadar Tóibín said he had "a great warmth, political insight and he stood strongly for his principles".

“He was founding member of Aontú. His passing is a great loss to all of us.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Anne, children, extended family and friends.”

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald also aid Mr Brolly was "a committed and dedicated Irish republican".

"He was a fine political representative, a campaigner and a musician, and his passing will be deeply felt in his native Dungiven and further afield.”

Requiem Mass for Mr Brolly will take place in St Patrick's Church, Dungiven, at 1pm tomorrow.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news