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Tributes are paid to priest who played a pivotal role in the Irish peace process

A funeral has been held for Fr Alec Reid, a key figure in the Northern Ireland peace process, acting as an intermediary between the IRA and politicians, who passed away a Dublin Hospital last Friday morning.

Fr Reid, 82, a member of the Redemptorist Order, secretly acted as a conduit between the republican movement and the SDLP and was one of the witnesses who confirmed the decommissioning of Provisional IRA weapons.

In recent years, he was involved in talks with Basque nationalists seeking independence from Spain.

In 1988, Fr Reid was pictured praying over the bodies of Army corporals Derek Wood and David Howes, who had been dragged from their car, beaten and shot by the IRA. The corporals had inadvertently driven into the midst of a republican funeral in Belfast.

The photograph of the bloodstained priest crouched praying over one of the soldiers was one of the starkest images of the Troubles.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, the future leader of the Irish Church, said the people of the island of Ireland ‘will forever owe Fr [Alec] Reid an immeasurable debt of gratitude for his tireless work towards building a civilisation of love and peace.’

In a statement, the Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh said the first thing that came to mind when he heard the news was the Gospel line: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

He also described Fr Reid as a ‘model pastor’ and ‘a deeply spiritual priest who had a profound effect on everyone whom he met,’ whose ministry was characterised by courage.

“He worked hard behind the scenes to build peace through patient and delicate negotiation,” he said. “Guided by the Holy Spirit, he encouraged others to move forward, inch by inch, problem by problem, thereby gradually overcoming any obstacles and setbacks.”

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said Clonard Monastery, Fr Reid’s base in west Belfast during the Troubles, was ‘the cradle of the peace process.’

He said he was with Fr Reid on Thursday night in St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin, and had been due to visit him again on Friday.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said she had ‘heard with sadness of the death of Fr Reid.’

Former SDLP leader John Hume said Fr Reid was ‘not simply a go-between’ in the early days of negotiating for peace but ‘an active player in fighting for an end to violence.’

There were tears and tributes in west Belfast as news broke of the death of Fr Alec Reid.

“He should have got a Nobel Peace Prize,” one man said. “But maybe he turned it down. The only prize he wanted was peace.”

Fr Reid’s burial took place at midday on Wednesday, as the SCO went to press, after a requiem Mass in Clonard church in west Belfast.



—This story ran in full in the November 29 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.


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