'His last months were difficult, but he bore them bravely'
THE late Fr Alec Reid's short playing career as a hurler was recalled today as friends gathered to pay their respects to the key figure in the Northern Ireland peace process who passed away this weekend.
The US government also paid tribute to the “deep faith and moral courage” of the late Father Alec Reid for his role in helping to bring peace.
President Michael D Higgins has described the priest as a “channel for peace” in Northern Ireland.
Fr Reid's remains are lying in repose in the Redemptorist order's Marianella Church in Dublin today and tomorrow.
A steady stream of mourners came to pay tribute to the 82-year-old priest today.
“His last few months were difficult but he bore it very bravely,” a fellow priest recalled.
Friends recalled his love of the GAA and his fame as a hurler with his native Tipperary.
The priest was born in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, in 1931.
He played hurling with the Tipperary minors, as part of the All-Ireland winning team, before leaving home to join the Redemptorist Congregation of priests in August 1949.
Labour Party junior minister Alan Kelly said Fr Reid's hurling career and roots in Tipperary were fondly remembered this weekend.
“One of his proudest days was in 2008 when Nenagh Town Council honoured him with a Civic Reception.
“The contribution he made to promoting peace and reconciliation was hugely significant, he acted as a broker between the IRA and the British Government.
“He was a compassionate man and showed huge respect to all. He made a vital contribution to the peace process during its most challenging and crucial periods,” he said.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams was among the first people to sign the book of condolences at the chapel earlier today.
President Higgins will pay his respects at a mass on Monday morning.
The US Consulate in Belfast paid tribute to Fr Reid's contribution to the peace process.
“The United States extends its deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Father Alec Reid, whose deep faith and moral courage helped lay the foundation for dialogue and progress in Northern Ireland, and his passing reminds us of the contributions made by so many along the path to peace.
“The United States applauds the tremendous progress made by the people and institutions of Northern Ireland, and we will be there as a friend and partner as remaining challenges toward a shared future are resolved in the same spirit of dialogue and mutual respect.
“Those close to Fr Reid can be proud of his role, and his legacy offers a profoundly powerful inspiration to all of us,” the consulate said in a statement.
[JOHN DRENNAN and FIONNAN SHEAHAN ]
*** Fr Alec Reid's remains will repose at Marianella Chapel on Orwell Road in Rathgar, Dublin 6 from 1pm to 8pm tomorrow.
Following Mass in Marianella Chapel at 11am on Monday, his remains will be taken to Clonard Church, Belfast, where they will repose on Monday evening from 4pm to 9pm and Tuesday from 9am to 9pm.
An Ecumenical Service of Gratitude for Fr Reid's left and ministry will take place in Clonard Church on Tuesday at 7:30pm.
His Funeral Mass will be in Clonard Church on Wednesday, followed by burial in Milltown Cemetery, Belfast.