Wednesday 22 January 2020

Pope Francis pays tribute to former taoiseach Albert Reynolds as Donnybrook comes to standstill ahead of State funeral

Ed Carty

Pope Francis has paid tribute to the late former taoiseach Albert Reynolds for his work as a peacemaker.

As mourners gather for a state funeral in Dublin for the politician and businessman, the pontiff sent a telegram in praise of his efforts to promote reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Hundreds of politicians, business figures and dignitaries are attending requiem mass at the Sacred Heart Church, Donnybrook, along with the extended family, friends and supporters.

Among those at the funeral were former Taoisigh Liam Cosgrave, John Bruton and Bertie Ahern, Northern Ireland deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, former British Prime Minister John Major, former ministers Charlie McCreevy and Padraig Flynn, Dermot Ahern and Noel Dempsey, fashion designer Louise Kennedy, racehorse owner JP McManus.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

The funeral mass was celebrated by Fr Brian Darcy, while the Archbishop gave the final commendation.

Mr Reynolds died last Thursday aged 81 after a long illness.

In the message from the Vatican's secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin to Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, the Pope praised his work and offered condolences to the family.

"The Holy Father learned with sadness of the death of the former taoiseach Albert Reynolds and he asks you kindly to convey his condolences to Mrs Reynolds and their children and family," the senior cleric said.

"Recalling with gratitude the late taoiseach's efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Ireland, His Holiness prays for the eternal repose of his soul.

"To all those gathered for the funeral rites, the Holy Father imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and hope in the risen Lord."

Tributes flooded in from home and abroad in the days since Mr Reynolds' death with contemporaries heralding the massive legacy he left after taking risks to carve out the Northern Ireland peace process.

Mr Reynolds is survived by his wife Kathleen, two sons and five daughters.

The family confirmed last year that he had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Born in November 1932 in Rooskey, Co Roscommon, Mr Reynolds was elected to the Irish parliament in 1977 and went on to become taoiseach in February 1992 in a coalition government.

Mr Reynolds's remains were brought to the church on Saturday evening after lying in state in the Mansion House for several hours that afternoon.

The coffin sat in front of the altar for the mass, draped in the Irish Tricolour.

Several gifts to be offered up by Mr Reynolds's grandchildren in the service were also in the church including a book of cloakroom tickets representing his time in showband era, a 1963 train carriage for his time working with Ireland's transport agency and a tin of dog food representing his successful C&D Foods business.

A photograph of the former taoiseach was printed on the mass booklet along with the quotation from James Freeman Clarke: "A politician thinks about the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation."

Among those attending the funeral are Sir John Major, who signed the Downing Street Declaration with Mr Reynolds in 1993 and paved the way for peace talks involving the British and Irish governments and Sinn Fein.

The party's senior figure, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was also attending, along with Liam Cosgrave, the oldest surviving former taoiseach, and Mr Reynolds's successor as Fianna Fail leader taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

A large number of members of the judiciary also attended as did Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson.

PA Media

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