Tipperary Oireachtas members paid tribute to the life and work of Fr Alec Reid, the Redemptorist priest who was heaviliy involved in the North’s peace process.
Junior Minister for Transport Alan Kelly said he was “sorry to hear of the death of Nenagh man Fr Alec Reid”.
“Fr Reid played a crucial role during the peace process. He was reared in Summerhill, and was always very proud of the town, no matter where he was he never forgot where he came from. One of his proudest days was when he received a civic reception from Nenagh Town Council in 2008.”
Deputy Kelly said that the contribution Fr Reid made to promoting peace and reconciliation was very important.
“He was a compassionate man and his respect for human dignity was evident at all times. He made an essential contribution to the peace process during its most challenging and crucial periods. He played a critical but also an unseen role at its very origins. Ireland is a better place because of his work.
“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis,” he said.
And South Tippery’s Independent TD Mattie McGrath said: “Here is a man that all of Tipperary can proudly call a true and heroic son of the county.
Deputy McGrath said Fr Reid’s work was pivotal in generating trust between those who held deeply conflicted views about the direction the North’s future. He called for Fr Reid to be honoured through the development of a memorial park or monument.
“While his lasting and permanent legacy will be the continuance of the process he helped initiate, we should also give consideration to a more physical space through which people can be reminded of the great work of a truly great man,” he said.
Fr Alex Reid was born in Dublin in 1931, but was raised at Summerhill, Nenagh, where his mother came from. He joined the Redemptorists in 1949 and was ordained in 1957. From 1961 until 2005, he was based in Clonard in west Belfast.
Following his education with the CBS primary and secondary schools in Nenagh, he went on to study English, History and Philosophy in UCD.
However, it was his close connections to the IRA through his work in Belfast that he came to attention, helping to try broker peace between feuding republicans, attempting to dissuade Bobby Sands from going on hunger strike in 1981, and in the Maze prison. It was there that he met Gerry Adams. In 1987 he met then Taoiseach Charles Haughey, and in 1988, brought John Hume and Gerry Adams together.
However it is the iconic image of him praying over the body of a British soldier shot dead by the IRA after he and a coleague had strayed into the funeral of the victim of Michael Stone’s gun attack on Milltown cemetery in 1988 that remains in the public’s imagination.
Fr Reid faciliatated what would become the Downing Street Declaration in 1993, which led to the IRA ceasefire in 1994. He went on to faciliate talks aimed at ending the ETA conflict in Spain.
Among the many figures that have paid tribute to him were President Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny; Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness; Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt; Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, and Rev Harold Good, who oversaw the decommissioning of IRA weapons with him.