| 13.4°C Dublin

Clinton says Albert risked much for peace in Ireland

BILL Clinton is just one of many leaders to pay glowing tribute to Albert Reynolds' role in the Northern Ireland peace process after the former Taoiseach died yesterday.

Mr Reynolds (81) passed away early yesterday morning after suffering from Alzheimer's disease for almost six years.

Members of his family were with him as he passed away at his home in Ballsbridge.

The former Taoiseach will be honoured with a State funeral in Dublin and thousands of mourners are expected to pay tribute to him when he lies in repose at the Mansion House tomorrow afternoon.

Members of the public will be invited to file past the coffin to pay their respects and sign a Book of Condolence between 1pm and 6pm. Mr Reynolds' remains will be formally received at the Sacred Heart Church, Donnybrook, Dublin 4 at 7.30pm.

The funeral mass will take place at 12 noon on Monday, followed by burial at Shanganagh Cemetery in Shankill, Co Dublin between 2pm and 2.30pm.

The arrangements are almost identical to the funeral of former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald three years ago.

Mr Reynolds is understood to have wanted to be buried in Dublin, rather than Longford, his political and business base, as his family mostly lives in the capital.

Tributes flowed in from across the world for the former Taoiseach, who was one of the architects of the peace process.

Mr Clinton, the former US president, pointed to the risks Mr Reynolds took in the Northern Ireland peace process.

"I am saddened by the passing of former prime minister of Ireland Albert Reynolds, who worked hard and risked much as Taoiseach to advance the Northern Ireland peace process," he said.

Mr Reynolds served as Taoiseach from February 1992 to December 1994 with the Downing Street Declaration in November and the IRA ceasefire of August 1994 regarded as his most significant achievements.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Mr Reynolds played an important part in bringing together differing strands of political opinion in Northern Ireland.

"And as a consequence (he) made an important contribution to the development of the peace process which eventually led to the Good Friday Agreement," he said.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said when Mr Reynolds left the office of Taoiseach, he left a country that was "embracing peace and a modernised economy on the verge of significant growth".

The Taoiseach extended the offer of a State funeral, as is the norm when former Taoisigh die.

Officials from the Taoiseach's office met with members of the Reynolds family yesterday.

Last December, his son, Philip, revealed Mr Reynolds was in the very late stages of Alzheimer's, required 24-hour care, and was unable to have conversations with people.

His condition had gradually deteriorated since he first began suffering from the disease six years ago.

Towards the end, he wasn't able to recognise some members of his family.

The family bought the apartment next to their own in the Four Seasons in Ballsbridge in Dublin 4 to accommodate carers.

Friends say he became very ill nine months ago and showed no sign of recovery.

Former Fianna Fail TD, Peter Kelly, who replaced Mr Reynolds in the Dail, said he last saw the former Taoiseach a couple of months ago.

"He looked great but he wasn't good. He wasn't well. It was very sad," he said.

Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave said he learned with sadness of the death of Mr Reynolds.

"Albert and myself used enjoy chats at the races where we exchanged our knowledge of form or lack of it," he said.

Former junior minister Conor Lenihan said he was a "very companionable person" and was "a marvellous man to be in company with".

Independent TD Finian McGrath said: "Despite many obstacles, he kept going and sowed the seeds of peace on our island. He was brave and inclusive."