Albert Reynolds: Former Irish prime minister dies

BBC Northern Ireland political reporter Gareth Gordon looks back on the life of Albert Reynolds

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Ireland's former prime minister Albert Reynolds has died at the age of 81.

He played a key role in advancing the Northern Ireland peace process, including the 1994 IRA ceasefire.

The Fianna Fáil politician, who was born in Rooskey in County Roscommon, led the party in two coalition governments.

He served as taoiseach (prime minister) for just under three years from February 1992 to December 1994.

Sir John Major: ''I don't think, without Albert, there would have been a peace process''

On a biography on its website, Fianna Fáil said of Mr Reynolds: "Without a doubt his greatest achievement was in Northern Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations, signing the Downing Street Declaration in 1993.

"It was Reynolds' determination that gave impetus to the peace process and the establishment of an IRA ceasefire in 1994, followed shortly afterwards by a loyalist ceasefire.

"Albert Reynolds asked the defining question 'who is afraid of peace?'

"His determination brought about what had seemed impossible," the party added.

Former prime minister Sir John Major said Mr Reynolds' willingness to bring different sides together allowed them to "put aside disagreements" and retain a good relationship "to work for a common goal".

"I have to tell you, in my experience in politics that this isn't a virtue that every politician has, but Albert Reynolds did," he said.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams paid tribute to Mr Reynolds on his Twitter account, saying he acted on Northern Ireland "when it mattered".

Albert Reynolds with Gerry Adams and John Hume in 1994 Mr Reynolds with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and SDLP leader John Hume in 1994

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who is also from Sinn Féin, praised Mr Reynolds' contribution to the peace process.

Mr McGuiness tweeted: "Very sad to hear that former taoiseach Albert Reynolds has died. Deep sympathy to Kathleen and family. Albert was a peacemaker."

Mr Reynolds became a member of Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament) at the 1977 general election, when he was elected for the constituency of Longford/Westmeath.

As Irish minister for posts and telegraphs and minister for transport from 1979-81, he revolutionised the telecommunications system.

As minister for industry and energy in 1982, Mr Reynolds developed the National Grid, establishing the gas pipeline from Cork to Dublin.

Challenging leadership

He was minister for industry and commerce in 1987-88 and minister for finance, 1988-91.

Mr Reynolds was removed from the cabinet for challenging the leadership of his predecessor Charles Haughey in 1991.

However, he assumed the mantle of leadership shortly afterwards in a continuation of the coalition government with the Progressive Democrats.

At the beginning of 1993, Mr Reynolds was returned to office in coalition with the Labour Party.

Mr Reynolds resigned as leader of Fianna Fáil and taoiseach later in 1994, after his coalition partners in the Labour Party pulled out of government because of a controversy that involved the extradition of paedophile priest Father Brendan Smyth.

Mr Reynolds had appointed Attorney General Harry Whelehan to the post of president of the High Court. Mr Whelehan had been heavily criticised over his handling of the extradition of Fr Smyth to Northern Ireland.

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