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Thursday 18 September 2014

Albert Reynolds: Five key moments in the life of the former Taoiseach

Ailish O’Hora

Published 21/08/2014 | 08:44

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Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds dies aged 81

From the peace process to the Beef Tribunal, former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds was never far from the spotlight. Here are five key moments in his career as a Fianna Fail lifer:

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1. Peace process

Widely credited for his contribution to the peace process, Reynolds was involved in the 1994 IRA ceasefire. He developed a strong relationship with the former British Prime Minister John Major.

His business-like dealings with the warring partners are what many believe helped seal the deal.

2. Heave against Charlie Haughey/Beef Tribunal

Initially a supporter of the then party leader Charlie Haughey, throughout the 70s and 80s, a number of errors led to his demise as Taoiseach at the time including the phone-tapping scandal.

In 1991, Sean Power TD put down a motion of no confidence in Haughey, Reynolds and arguably his biggest supporter Padraig Flynn, supported it and were immediately sacked from the Government.

When the vote was retaken, the party supported Haughey and it looked as if Reynolds’ career was over. However, when Haughey officially retired in 1992 as leader of Fianna Fail, it was Reynolds who succeeded him – he easily defeated Mary O’Rourke and Michael Woods in the leadership election.

While in coalition with the PDs, Reynolds called it a "a temporary little arrangement".

It ended in tears. He and PD leader Dessie O'Malley were deeply critical of each other during the Beef Trbunal, a tribunal into the beef processing industry. When it became clear that the relationship was at breaking point, a general election was called after Reynolds had served only nine months as Taoiseach.

3. Brendan Smith case

It's almost 20 years since the Fianna Fail/Labour fell over the extradition of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

Reynolds's government had struggled to deal with the fallout of the delay, by the Office of the Attorney General, to extradite the sex abuser.In 1994, the Government stood accused of also protecting the-then attorney general Harry Whelehan. The Labour Party eventually pulled the plug when Reynolds appointed Whelehan as president of the High Court.

Within a week Whelehan resigned, just after after Reynolds stepped down as Taoiseach.

4: X-case

From almost day one of his role as Taoiseach, Reynolds had to deal with the X Case. In the early 1990s, the-then Attorney General, Harry Whelehan, refused to allow a 14-year-old girl to travel to the UK for or an abortion back.

The issue caused strain within the Fianna Fail/Labour government and was divisive countrywide. While the girl was eventually allowed to travel, the issue, and subsequent referendum had already damaged that coalition, and contributed to its eventual downfall.

5. Business

Known as the country and western politician, apart from his base in Longford, this nickname was partly due to his ballroom businesses.

Although he stated his career in the public service with CIE, he became a wealthy man as he branched out into other businesses including pet food and hotels as well as property and publishing.

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