Albert and Alex brought the loyalists into peace process

Twenty years ago, the IRA declared a ceasefire, the first step towards the Good Friday Agreement. The first moves in that peace process began in the early 1990s in Dundalk, Belfast, and Dublin. It involved Redemptorist peacemaker and facilitator, Fr Alex Reid, and Albert Reynolds. who on many occasions went to the north incognito and met representatives from loyalist groups, meetings arranged by Fr Alex. It was difficult and secret work, and some of it, then, and later, took place in Dundalk with the support of the Redemptorist Order.

Former Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern was much involved in the peace process. Speaking to The Democrat, on the legacy of Albert Reynolds, Mr Ahern said ‘he took risks for peace’.

“In his first press conference when he replaced Haughey, he said he would put Northern Ireland top of the agenda. We were hoping he would do this and continue the work started in 1988.

“I had been working with Martin Mansergh earlier. Albert was less cautious than Haughey. He brought his business skills into practice. He was used to getting a deal done. That was all important.

“At the time, Sinn Fein were anxious that the SDLP, Fianna Fail, and Sinn Fein should form a pan-nationalist front. We were reluctant to follow that. And Albert didn’t fall for it.”

Mr Ahern pointed out that the basis of the peace process was laid by the willingness of Reynolds to engage face-to-face with every party to the conflict.

“I remember a debate on the Middle East at the UN. Everybody said you couldn’t talk to Hamas. And the only foreign ministers who said you don’t close the door on talks with Hamas, that you have to hold out the hand of peace, were the British Foreign Minister Jack Straw, and myself.

“That is why the Irish peace process was watched round the world, emulated in places like the Philippines, Spain, Turkey. The language used by Albert Reynolds was blunt: we have to take risks. We have to redouble our efforts.”

Sinn Fein deputy Gerry Adams said: “The person who made the huge difference in there (the Peace Process) was Fr Alex Reid, He (Fr Alex) first of all forged a personal relationship with loyalists and brought the Irish government and the taoiseach (Albert Reynolds) in at that time.”

Gerry Adams said that when Albert Reynolds got behind the talks, Sinn Fein was practically a banned organisation, ‘barred from the airwaves’, but Albert Reynolds brought a fresh approach and commitment, and brought the process on by his straight forwardness and his ability to act when it mattered.

It all led to the Downing Street Declaration in December 1993, then the IRA ceasefire in 1994, and eventually the Good Friday Agreement.

Fianna Fail deputy Seamus Kirk also paid tribute to Albert Reynolds’ contribution to peace, and to industrial development, as a cabinet minister and a taoiseach.

Leader comment Page 24

Leader comment Page 24

Leader comment Page 24

na Fail came back into power in 1987,” Mr Kirk said.

“That was the beginning in a new era in development. He was at the start of kick-starting industrial development. He was an industrialist himself and brought that know-how to the office when he became minister for industry and commerce.”

Albert Reynolds secured major regional funding from the EU which helped create the Celtic Tiger. But when the tiger died, it was found that a lot of his former colleagues were corrupt. It was as if they were living in Cloudland, the name of one of dance halls Albert and his brother Jim set up in the booming 1960s.

He was down-to-earth. He is reputed to have eaten a spoonful of his pet food in order to land a contract with a British supermarket. Charlie Haughey stook to cavier paid for by wealth patrons. Leader comment Page


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