Tuesday 12 December 2017

Priest who had pivotal role in peace process dies

A Catholic priest who acted as a bridge between the IRA and politicians, resulting in birth of the Northern Ireland peace process, has died.

Fr Alec Reid died in a hospital in Dublin at 06:40am today, aged 82.

Fr Reid received death threats during his work in the peace process. He negotiated between the leaders of the republican and nationalist movements in Northern Ireland.

He has been widely lauded as a key figure in the peace process.

In a BBC documentary ‘14 Days’ broadcast earlier this year, Fr Reid told how he was threatened with death as he tried to prevent the IRA killing two British soldiers in Belfast during one of the most fraught periods of the Troubles.

He described how he was heaved away by the IRA gunmen, one of them telling him: “Get up, or I’ll f***ing well shoot you as well.”

Fr Alec Reid pictured after his attempts to resuscitate two soldiers before giving them the last rites, on realising they were dead
Fr Alec Reid pictured after his attempts to resuscitate two soldiers before giving them the last rites, on realising they were dead
Father Alec Reid died this morning.

The Falls Road-based priest went to the soldiers and attempted to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, during which his lips became covered with blood.

When he realised they were dead, he gave them the last rites.

He said: “All I can do is anoint them.”

Gerry Adams told RTE Radio’s Sean O’Rourke this morning that he was “deeply saddened” by the death of a “good friend”.

Mr Adams said the priest, who was affectionately known as “An Sagart (The Priest)” was like a "terrier" in the peace process, who never gave up.

The Sinn Fein leader said the priest “lived the gospel message”, and he was so affected by the plight of hunger striker Bobby Sands that he suffered a nervous breakdown.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore described Fr Reid as one of the leading political figures in Ireland, and "one of the great peacemakers".

Mr Gilmore said the priest was one of the people on the ground who knew the urgency of peace, and he also had "an understanding of how to bring it about".

"The legacy he has left is the legacy of peace that we now enjoy on this island," the Tanaiste added.

In the BBC programme earlier this year, Protestant minister the Very Rev Ken Newell said of Fr Reid’s efforts to start dialogue: “In many ways he was a visionary; he was the one who saw the first crocus of the spring.”

Fr Reid's funeral is expected to take place in Belfast on Wednesday. It is understood there will also be a mass in Rathgar in Dublin on Monday for the heroic priest.

Irish Independent

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