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'Chaplain to the peace process' dies

Fr Alec Reid

Fr Alec Reid, the unassuming Redemptorist priest who played a crucial behind-the-scenes role in setting up Northern Ireland's Good Friday Peace Agreement, has died. He was 82. 

Alec Reid, priest and peace maker

Born August 5, 1931; died November 22, 2013

- By Douglas Dalby for The New York Times

Alec Reid was born in Dublin in 1931 and grew up in the Republic of Ireland, in Nenagh, in rural Co. Tipperary, where his family had moved at age 6 after his father died. He joined the Redemptorist Order in 1949 and was ordained a priest in 1957.

Fr Reid was virtually unknown to the wider public until 1988, when he was captured in a photograph kneeling over the bloodied, spread-eagled corpse of a British soldier whom he had tried but failed to save minutes earlier from execution by the Irish Republican Army.

It remains one of the most haunting images of ‘the Troubles,’ the violent struggle that tore at Northern Ireland for three decades.

Few people knew at the time, however, that Fr Reid had served as a secret peace broker between Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the IRA.’s political wing, and Fr Reid’s contacts in the British and Irish governments.

Fr Reid was also a confidant of influential pacifist nationalists such as Nobel laureate John Hume. Fr Reid and Mr Adams frequently met at the Clonard Monastery in the nationalist heartland of urban West Belfast.

But he was no mere messenger. Martin Mansergh, a former negotiator for the Irish Government, said Prime Minister Charles Haughey of Ireland regarded Fr Reid as the ‘most important person in the entire peace process, bar none.’

Fr Reid, who abhorred violence, convinced the parties in the struggle that Mr Adams had a genuine interest in seeking an end to the IRA.’s paramilitary campaign against the British government in pursuit of a united Ireland, and that he had the wherewithal to deliver on a peace agreement.

In a statement, Mr Adams described Fr Reid as ‘the chaplain to the peace process’ and Clonard Monastery as its ‘cradle.’

‘There would not be a peace process at this time without his diligent doggedness and his refusal to give up,’ Mr Adams said.

Alec Reid, Northern Ireland Priest Who Helped Broker Peace Accord, Dies at 82 (The New York Times)

Warm tributes paid to Fr Alec Reid at funeral Mass (The Irish Times)

Stalwart in Irish peace model dies (Redemptorists of Australia and New Zealand)

Watch: Father Alec Reid: The priest instrumental in the Northern Ireland peace process (BBC)

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