I was listening to the radio the other day at work and caught in passing the end of a news article about a reverend who had brokered peace dying, and thought little more of it, until I got home and realised that this news had not made it much outside Ireland, and a postscript on the BBC news (it is there if you look, but someone like this should really have taken precedence over what some nameless celebrity is upto…), and it seemed to have been somewhat overshadowed in the popular press. I have a personal interest in Northern Irish modern history, as my family lost at least one member to the troubles (Gabriel Mulally). So I thought after some digging that my blog would be the perfect place to give Father Alec Reid the recognition he deserves.
The Daily Telegraph ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10468267/Father-Alec-Reid-Obituary.html ) writes:
Father Alec Reid, who has died aged 82, was a Redemptorist priest who played a pivotal role in the early stages of the peace process in Northern Ireland when he acted as an intermediary between the IRA and the Irish government.
For almost 40 years Father Alec Reid lived and worshipped at the Clonard Monastery off the Falls Road in West Belfast. As feuds between Unionists and Nationalists raged on his doorstep, he worked behind the scenes to broker peace and offer comfort to those affected by the violence. He first came to prominence in Northern Ireland in 1982, when he visited Gerry Adams, then joint vice-president of Sinn Fein, to try to persuade the IRA to release a kidnapped member of the Ulster Defence Regiment. The mission failed and the IRA murdered the man,
In 1988, during some of the worst of the Troubles, when there seemed to be no hope of a political or military solution, a shocking photograph of Father Alec, his hands clasped in prayer, his face smeared with blood, kneeling over the body of a British soldier – one of two who had been lynched by a frenzied Republican mob, seemed to indicate that Northern Ireland was about to descend into new depths of inhumanity.
The picture was beamed around the world, but no one knew until years later that beneath his coat the priest was carrying a secret Sinn Fein document for the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader John Hume on how to resolve the crisis. After the photograph was taken Reid returned to his monastery and changed the envelope because the blood of one of the British soldiers was on it.
Despite the failure of his earlier attempt to persuade Gerry Adams of the need to pursue peace, Reid remained in close contact after Adams became Sinn Fein president, and in 1987 was asked to act as go-between when the IRA first made guarded suggestions of a ceasefire to the then Irish Taoiseach Charles Haughey.
The BBCs Mark Simpson tweeted;
He was met in some cases with plainly “?”; this for a man who whilst he may not have been perfect, saw fit to provide the last rites in a dangerous situation, and to try do what he could to bring an end to a century of fighting and bloodshed, a man who should be known about more.