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Businessman 'who could turn his hand and mind to anything'

IT was in the midlands where the former Taoiseach's loss was felt most today.

Albert Reynolds (81) was a popular figure in Longford and Roscommon, and employed more than 1,000 people from across the midlands at one stage.

He built dance halls there and later developed the C&D pet food plant in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford, which opened in 1969.

A former chairman of Longford Chamber of Commerce, he was first elected to Longford County Council 1974 and was then elected to the Dail in the Longford/Westmeath constituency in 1977, at the age of 45.

Benny Reid, a Longford FF activist, said history would be kind to Reynolds.

"It is not entirely unexpected, but when it comes it hits you between the two eyes," Mr Reid said of Reynold's passing, on Shannonside FM today.

Mr Reid was a keen supporter of Reynolds and recalled how the businessman first dipped his toes into politics in 1965, shortly after he was married.

Statesmen

"What struck me at the time, [was that] Albert was very casual in the presence of Frank Aitken [a founding member of Fianna Fail]. I didn't know it at the time but we had two statesmen there."

Mr Reid said Albert was initially reluctant to get involved in politics.

"We had several discussions, casual discussions. He loved politics and serving people but he had a young family and was starting out. He said he couldn't afford it."

However, he eventually ventured into public life and went on to become the first-ever Taoiseach from the midlands.

"He was happiest sitting back at 1am in the morning drinking a cup of tea and talking," Mr Reid added.

Former Longford Leader editor Eugene McGee said he ended up working for Mr Reynolds when he took over the Longford News.

"He was anxious to get the paper as he thought it would be a foothold. He was always hanging around the Longford Arms with the dance hall business," Mr McGee said.

Mr Reynolds also had a finance company called ABC finance as well as extensive property holdings.

In 2006, his pet food business was destroyed by a fire resulting in 
the loss of 300 jobs, but later re-opened providing much-needed employment in the Longford area.

Rory O'Hanlon, who served in government with Reynolds, said today that he showed the same focus in the Dail as he did in his dance hall and pet food businesses.

Peter Kelly, who succeeded Mr Reynolds in 2002, said that today is a "very sad day for Ireland".

politics

"In Longford and Roscommon, regardless of politics, people voted for Albert Reynolds. They liked him, they loved him. On a Monday he was in the White House talking to President Clinton, on a Tuesday he was back in Longford," Mr Kelly said.

"Albert was the type of guy who could have turned his hand - and his mind -
to anything," Mr Kelly added.

hnews@herald.ie


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