Fr. Alec Reid RIP
Alec Reid was one of the architects of the peace process in Northern Ireland. He worked in the background, but was instrumental in bringing all sides together to talk. In a situation that was riven with bitterness, division and mistrust Alec managed to win the trust of all sides. He died on Friday morning last at the age of 82.
Alec was a quiet, unassuming man, who was extremely discreet about what he was doing. We were all aware that he was involved with people at the highest level north and south, and also in Britain. We heard stories of well-known faces slipping quietly into Clonard monastery at all hours of day and night, but that it was important that all of this should be kept secret. I did not live in the same community as Alec, but when we met at various events I would never dream of asking him what he was doing. I knew I would not be told. I remember sometime in the 1980s I was in Clonard preaching at the annual novena. It was our custom to stand around outside the church after each session and chat with the people. Alec was walking among the crowd in the company of Gerry Adams. He brought Gerry over to be introduced to myself. I remember feeling uncomfortable about that whole scene. I concluded that Alec was naive, and that Adams was staging this walk in order to secure votes in West Belfast. But time was to prove that Alec had a much larger vision, and was playing for higher stakes entirely. As time went on I learned to trust his judgment, and to be glad of the role of was playing.
Theologically and spiritually Alec was a fairly traditional man, and I don’t think he would have ever joined the ACP. But coming, as he did, from a republican stable, there was a bit of a rebel in him too.
The Redemptorist founder, St. Alphonsus Liguori, is reputed to have promised that those who remained faithful to the congregation all their life would receive “the crown of eternal glory”. I have no doubt that Alec has earned that crown. And since he was a man of great understanding and compassion, I hope that he might hold the door open for those of us who may not have been as faithful as he was!