23Nov 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!

Tony Flannery

3 Responses

  1. Eddie Finnegan

    Tony, thanks for that word of appreciation for a great man who at a particular time and place recognised a role that he should play, lest nobody else would have the guts and quiet wisdom to assume it. I believe it was John Hume who presented him with the ‘Tipperary Man of the Year’ award – no fitter men to present or receive it. Hume was both loser and winner in those negotiations Fr Reid made possible. Redemptorists and rebels come in all shapes and sizes and plough lone furrows in all sorts of rocky fields, but the image we’ll all retain of Fr Alec is that of the Priest giving a last anointing at Casement Park, surely the most extreme unction any priest ever had to impart, while fulfilling at least five of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. It would take more than the proverbial boiled egg to lift a man’s loneliness that particular March evening. And as it happened, Fr Alec was on his way from St Agnes’s in Andersonstown with negotiation papers from Sinn Féin to John Hume. I measc laochra Dé is na nGael go mbéid sé.

  2. Shane O'Neill

    Our Island is a better place thanks to people like Fr Alec

  3. Martin

    Lord have Mercy – embraced into the Light of Christ for a well deserved rest and reward. Thank you Redemptorist Fr Alec. Blessed man.