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Peace process hero Fr Alec Reid passes away, aged 82

Tributes have flowed in for the man given credit for bringing peace to Northern Ireland.

Image: Graham Hughes/Photocall Ireland

DESCRIBED AS AN architect of peace, Fr Alec Reid was an extremely influential figure during Northern Ireland’s peace process.

The Tipperary priest died today, aged 82.

He passed away at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin early this morning.

His administering of the last rites to two British soldiers who were killed at the scene of an IRA funeral in 1988 became a seminal moment in the conflict as the event was caught on camera.

The stark picture – a now iconic image of The Troubles – shows the Redemptorist priest crouched over the body of one of the corporals who was dragged from his car, beaten and shot after inadvertently driving through the funeral.

Commenting on the events of that day, a British Ministry of Defence spokesman told BBC News: “Fr Alec Reid’s intervention to administer last rites epitomised his enormous faith and strength of conviction.

His comfort was given amidst the enormous fears and tension on that terrible day in March 1988.

Later, Fr Reid acted as an intermediary for Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams and SDLP leader John Hume.

Speaking on Newstalk, the Sinn Féin president described his friend of 40 years as “non-judgemental” and “tenacious”.

“He saw good in everyone – British soldiers, RUC officers, IRA volunteers…,” he added. “He understood that there was no point using the pulpit to denounce and condemn.”

We are where we are on this island because of him.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers echoed the sentiment, stating:

“We all owe a debt of gratitude to him for the role he played in the peace and reconciliation process in Northern Ireland.”

Touching on another side of the deceased, Adams revealed that Reid’s last words to him last night were about something he loved – hurling – and they were, “Up Tipp!”

Tributes

Tributes for the man have poured in this morning, praising him for his role in the Peace Process.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore said, “I am deeply saddened by the passing of Father Alec Reid this morning.

“Fr Reid 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.

“He had a key role in facilitating talks between Gerry Adams and John Hume and, along with Reverend Harold Good, he played a vital part in the decommissioning process.

“The contribution Father Reid made to promoting peace and reconciliation was immensely important. He conducted himself with integrity and compassion even in the most difficult of circumstances.  His deep respect for human dignity was evident at all times.

“We are the poorer for his passing today but Ireland is very much the richer for his labours.”

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