Historic handshake signified determination of Reynolds
Much has been said and written about the passing this week of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds who was laid to rest following a state funeral on Monday.
Reynolds was rightly praised for his role in the peace process and in helping set the cornerstones of that peace with the Downing Street Declaration in 1993 and the eventual IRA cessation of violence in 1994.
Anyone old enough will vividly remember one of the most iconic and symbolic handshakes of modern Irish political history when as Taoiseach he emerged onto the steps of Government Buildings with the SDLP leader John Hume and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams shortly after the IRA cessation.
Coming so soon after the IRA announcement many bristled at the resulting handshake between the Taoiseach and the Sinn Fein leader as at time the party and its leadership was seen by many as beyond the pale.
However, it was such bravery and determination which set Reynolds apart in getting momentum and progress into the peace process, which was ultimately followed through and cemented by his and John Major's successors, Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair.
Locally we owe a debt to Albert Reynolds for his significant part in bringing about peace. This town and region were marred, embroiled and tarnished by the violence of the troubles throughout the previous decades but now a generation have grown up without the fear of the bomb and bullet, the shadow of British Army watchtowers in South Armagh and warzone like army checkpoints on the way into Newry.
In that sense alone, as Taoiseach Albert Reynolds did more for Dundalk than most others in that office before or after him, while the famous night he secured an €8 billion deal from the EU by way of structural funds helped build some of the M1 motorway through the county which is still so vital in delivering quick access to Dublin and the airport and is cited regularly as a crucial factor whenever job announcements such as PayPal and eBay are made.