Northern Ireland

Fr Alec Reid left powerful legacy, says US government

Fr Alec Reid
Fr Alec Reid
Fr Alec Reid
Father Alec Reid

The US government said Father Alec Reid, who died on Friday, had left a "profoundly powerful" legacy.

Fr Alec Reid was a key figure in the Northern Ireland peace process, acting as a go-between between the IRA and politicians.

The 82-year-old died in a Dublin Hospital at 06:40 GMT on Friday.

A statement from the United States' consulate in Belfast said the country extended its sympathy to the family and friends of Fr Reid.

"(His) deep faith and moral courage helped lay the foundation for dialogue and progress in Northern Ireland, and his passing reminds us of the contributions made by so many along the path to peace," it said.

"The United States applauds the tremendous progress made by the people and institutions of Northern Ireland, and we will be there as a friend and partner as remaining challenges toward a shared future are resolved in the same spirit of dialogue and mutual respect.

"Those close to Father Reid can be proud of his role, and his legacy offers a profoundly powerful inspiration to all of us."

Fr Reid, a member of the Redemptorist order, secretly acted as a conduit between the republican movement and the SDLP.

He was one of the witnesses who confirmed the decommissioning of IRA weapons.

In recent years, he was involved in talks with Basque nationalists seeking independence from Spain.

In 1988, Fr Reid was pictured praying over the bodies of Army corporals Derek Wood and David Howes who had been dragged from their car, beaten and shot by the IRA.

The corporals had inadvertently driven into the midst of a republican funeral in Belfast.

'Enormous fears'

The photograph of the bloodstained priest crouched praying over one of the soldiers was one of the starkest images of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "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."

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said Clonard monastery, Fr Reid's base in west Belfast during the Troubles, was "the cradle of the peace process".

He told RTÉ Radio he was with Fr Reid on Thursday night in St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, and had been due to visit him again on Friday.

"What Alec Reid did was, he lived the gospel message. He developed a view which was contrary to the official view, that there had to be dialogue, and he was tenacious."

'End to violence'

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Media captionObituary: Father Alec Reid

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, said: "I heard with sadness of the death of Fr Reid.

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

Fr Reid's funeral will take place at 12:00 GMT on Wednesday after requiem Mass in Clonard church in west Belfast.

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