Tributes paid to former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds

Thursday 21 August 2014 23.56
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Mr Reynolds pictured with his wife Kathleen at the launch of his book (Pic: Leon Farrell/Photocall)
Mr Reynolds pictured with his wife Kathleen at the launch of his book (Pic: Leon Farrell/Photocall)
Former US President Bill Clinton said the world owes him a debt of gratitude
Former US President Bill Clinton said the world owes him a debt of gratitude
Bertie Ahern (L) and Brian Cowen (R) both praised Albert Reynolds' role in advancing the Northern Ireland peace process
Bertie Ahern (L) and Brian Cowen (R) both praised Albert Reynolds' role in advancing the Northern Ireland peace process
John Major said that without Mr Reynolds the peace process may never have started
John Major said that without Mr Reynolds the peace process may never have started
Former President Mary McAleese said Mr Reynolds was the main navigator through some of the most challenging times during the peace process
Former President Mary McAleese said Mr Reynolds was the main navigator through some of the most challenging times during the peace process

Tributes have been paid to former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds by politicians throughout Ireland and abroad highlighting the achievements he made in advancing the peace process.

Former US President Bill Clinton said the world owes him a debt of gratitude for his work in the Northern Ireland peace process.

“I am saddened by the passing of former Prime Minister of Ireland Albert Reynolds, who worked hard and risked much as Taoiseach to advance the Northern Ireland peace process,” Mr Clinton said in a statement.

“His leadership alongside British Prime Minister John Major was instrumental in laying the foundation for the Good Friday Agreement, and our world owes him a profound debt of gratitude.

 “I will always be grateful for his encouragement, advice, and support in the peace process.  I join with his wife, Kathleen, his children, his many friends, and the people of Ireland in mourning his loss,” he added.

Former British Prime Minister, Sir John Major, has said that Albert Reynolds had come along as Taoiseach at exactly the right time. 

Speaking on the Six One, Mr Major said he had been very concerned about the bloodshed and the mayhem he had seen in Northern Ireland and in Britain and was prepared to take risks to try and put it right.

He said the fact that Mr Reynolds was prepared to take political risks for peace, knowing that it might end badly, marked him out as a very special kind of person.

He added he had many rows with the former Taoiseach but because of the personal relationship and respect between them and their joint objective of ending violence, they were able to put those rows aside without them inhibiting the next stage of the process.

Former Taoisigh have also paid tributes to Mr Reynolds who died in the early hours of this morning aged 81, and praised his legacy as a peacemaker.

Bertie Ahern said Mr Reynolds was not afraid to take political risks to further the path of reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

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

Mr Ahern said: "I am deeply saddened to learn today of the death of Albert Reynolds.

"He was not afraid to take political risks to further the path of reconciliation. The Downing Street Declaration paved the way for the IRA ceasefire and all the positives which have flowed from the peace process for people North and South.

"So much of this achievement has its roots in Albert's courage, perseverance and his commitment to democratic politics. 

"When the definitive history of this period is written, his name deserves to stand tall."

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen said he will remember Mr Reynolds as a close personal friend to him and his family. 

Mr Cowen said he "will always be grateful for his trust and faith in me, particularly in appointing me to the cabinet for the first time in 1992."

He said Mr Reynolds's "political bravery" and "wisdom" were "the key ingredients in fostering a new dispensation of peace, tolerance and reconciliation, mutual respect and equality on this island.

"For that he will always have the enduring respect of the Irish people."

Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave said: "Albert and myself used to enjoy chats at the races where we exchanged our knowledge of form or lack of it".

European Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn described Mr Reynolds as an incredible networker.

She said she believed former British prime minister John Major had huge trust in Mr Reynolds and this trust played an important part in the Downing Street Declaration.

Earlier, Mr Major said Mr Reynolds was "at the heart of the success of the Irish peace process."

He said that without Mr Reynolds the peace process "may never have started - or might have stalled at an early stage - and Ireland, north and south, might still be enduring the violence that scarred daily lives for so long.

"Albert cared about achieving peace and took risks to deliver a future for Ireland that many thought was impossible. He deserves an honoured place in the history of his country.

"To me, he became a friend I cherish and will miss."

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Mr Major said he and Mr Reynolds had a special relationship that withstood and was often strengthened by disagreements.

"The joy of the relationship with Albert from the start was that, in a fashion I can't quite explain, we were able to have the fiercest of rows without leaving scars and without leaving either of us less inclined to pursue the peace process than we were before, it was a clearing of the air."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "It is with great regret that I learned this morning of the death of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds.

"Albert Reynolds brought an energy and drive to the development of business and economic growth during his tenure in office as Minister for Industry and as Minister for Finance.

"As Taoiseach he played an important part in bringing together differing strands of political opinion in Northern Ireland and as a consequence made an important contribution to the development of the peace process which eventually led to the Good Friday Agreement."

Mr Kenny expressed his condolences to the Reynolds family as well as to the Fianna Fáil party and leader Micheál Martin.

Tánaiste Joan Burton said in working with Mr Reynolds, two things struck her forcibly.

"The first, on a political and professional level, was his 'can-do' attitude and openness to ideas - he was always eager to find ways to do things better.

"The second, on a personal level, was his absolute devotion to, and adoration of, his family."

President Michael D Higgins said Mr Reynolds will be remembered as "a most dynamic Cabinet minister and a Taoiseach with courage, who made a very important contribution to the dialogue which led to the Northern Ireland peace process."

Dáil Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett said Mr Reynolds will be remembered with fondness around Leinster House as a warm, hardworking and approachable parliamentarian.

He said: "On behalf of the members of Dáil Éireann and on my own behalf, I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to his family and many friends."

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also praised Mr Reynolds's enduring legacy as a peacemaker.

"There were many, many cynics at the time who thought he was going down the wrong route and felt he was being overly optimistic," he said.

"I think the key was the development of a very strong relationship, a personal relationship, with John Major.

"The trust that developed between the two of them I think was instrumental in bringing the British Irish governmental approach to the issue.

"It was key also in terms of reaching out to the republican movement and the loyalist movement.

"He had the capacity and personality to develop that trust between people who before that would not have engaged with Fianna Fail leaders or a taoiseach in the Republic."

Former SDLP leader John Hume expressed his deep sadness at the death of Mr Reynolds who he said: "gave outstanding public service to the people of Ireland." 

"He demonstrated integrity, determination and great courage in his pursuit of peace at a time when it was so necessary", he said.

Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams expressed his condolences to the Reynolds family on Twitter saying Mr Reynolds "acted on the North when it mattered."

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said Mr Reynolds was "a Peacemaker".

Mr McGuinness said the former Taoiseach was someone who understood the North and the nationalist Republican community but, "just as importantly, he understood the loyalist unionist community and had contacts in both.

"Albert Reynolds played a really important role in paving the way for what is arguably the most important development in 20 years, maybe even 100 years, and that was a decision by the IRA leadership to call a ceasefire in 1994 which so dramatically changed the security and political situation here on this island and particularly in the North". 

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said Mr Reynolds helped unionism sell the peace process to its electorate by accepting the principle of consent.

"He was the first Irish prime minister that really accepted the concept or principle of consent...instead of territorial claims and so on, that it was for the people to decide our destiny," he said.

Mr Donaldson said he did not always see eye to eye with the former Taoiseach but was struck by his understanding of people in Northern Ireland, which he credited to his days as a showband impresario throughout the island.

"I was struck by the clarity of what he had to say, and the understanding of the problems we faced in Northern Ireland," he said.

"Maybe that was partly because in his early years he had met with people and engaged with them at a social level."

Mr Reynolds' former government ministerial colleague Mary O'Rourke, who served the same constituency, said he was a devoted family man.

She said: "For me, that was such a sterling quality in a busy, busy person in the old-fashioned way. God be good to him, and his family now."

Former President Mary McAleese said Mr Reynolds was the main navigator through some of the most challenging times during the peace process.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Ms McAleese said Mr Reynolds brought stability to the political situation at the time and had a great capacity to see a deal though to conclusion.

She said he had "managed to garner all the peacemakers, including the Americans, to hold all the pieces in tension until the politics stabilised again.

"I think that was his great capacity to see a deal through to conclusion and essentially to be the main navigator."

Another former President also praised Mr Reynolds' efforts in ending violence in Northern Ireland.

Mary Robinson said they shared a common position to bring about peace in their respective roles as president and taoiseach.

""I have every admiration for a kind of dogged determination, a sort of businessman's we have got to get this done.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, she said: "It was much less a political a kind of, almost operational commitment by Albert Reynolds. We have got to get peace. People cannot go on getting killed. We cannot go on with this kneecapping of youngsters. He spoke about it with passion."

Former Tánaiste and former Leader of the Labour Party Dick Spring has offered his condolences to the Reynolds family. 

"Albert recognised in 1992 that the opportunity for bringing about lasting peace on the island of Ireland was nearer at hand than at any time since the outbreak of the Troubles in 1969. That possibility was one of the motivating factors behind the formation of the Fianna Fáil/Labour coalition Government in 1993," Mr Spring said.

Fergus Finlay, an advisor to former Labour Tániste Dick Spring, has said that Mr Reynolds single-handedly achieved the Downing Street declaration.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Finlay said Mr Reynolds was instrumental in forging a close working relationship with then British prime minister John Major that proved crucial to the Downing Street declaration.

"John Major was a reluctant partner, in many respects he had to be dragged kicking and screaming and it was to Albert Reynolds' eternal credit that he won him over. 

"He was the most dogged, most persistent, most straightforward and most single-minded person I've ever met in terms of the pursuit of an objective."

Former Minister for Education Niamh Bhreathnach, who served in the Labour Fianna Fáil coalition under Albert Reynolds has said the former Taoiseach was a man who operated on many levels and layers.

She told the Six One news that she had been barely aware of the meetings that were going on between senior Labour and Fianna Fáil officials concerning the Fr Brendan Smith affair and that she had been shocked.

She said that when it emerged that Mr Reynolds was pulling the Government to deliver a promise to an Attorney General, she had found it very hard to understand.

Ms Bhreathnach said Albert Reynolds had run cabinet meetings wonderfully and his business experience had served him well.

Robert Troy, Fianna Fáil TD for Longford-Westmeath said: "I'm deeply saddened to learn of his death. He had been quite ill for some time, that being said, it's still a shock."

Mr Troy paid tribute to his work locally, nationally and internationally.

"He was an exceptional politician from a constituency perspective and to me he was an exceptional Taoiseach and he's the man that laid the work that brokered the Good Friday Agreement.

"He will always be remembered for the role he played in lasting peace."

Fine Gael TD for Longford-Westmeath James Bannon said Mr Reynolds was a political figure of "extraordinary integrity and courage."

He said he "contributed much to community life in the midlands and throughout the country and there is no doubt that he enriched the lives of those who were lucky enough to know him." 

Fine Gael TD for Roscommon/Galway Frank Feighan, who was Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, said: "Albert Reynolds achieved much in business and politics in an extraordinary life, but it is his role in securing peace on our island that will be his most enduring legacy. 

"On behalf of the Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, and on my own behalf, I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Albert Reynolds."

The Catholic bishop of the diocese which includes much of Mr Reynolds' former constituency of Longford/Westmeath has said he was a major player in bringing peace to Ireland.

Bishop Francis Duffy described the former Taoiseach's success as "a shining example of commitment to the common good and dedication to the long sought and precious goal of securing peace" here.

Extending his prayerful sympathies to the Reynolds family, the bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise said the late Dáil Deputy would be remembered locally as a committed and sensitive politician who made a real difference to the lives of his constituents in both the local community and economy. 

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network said Mr Reynolds has left a lasting legacy in making Ireland a fairer place for lesbian and gay people.

GLEN Chair Kieran Rose said: "As Taoiseach he led a government that began the journey to legislative and constitutional equality for lesbian and gay people.

"He was the Taoiseach of the Fianna Fáil/Labour coalition government that made the first legislative advances to end discrimination against lesbian and gay people.

"That government in 1993 passed legislation to decriminalise homosexuality, which started the great transformation in the status of lesbian and gay people in Ireland.

"That Fianna Fáil/Labour government also passed legislation protecting lesbian and gay people in employment, one of the first countries in the world to do so."

The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, has said Mr Reynolds was among those "who caught the vision of peace across the island of Ireland and gave of themselves to make it a living reality."

In a statement, he acknowledged what he called "the courageous and creative work which Mr Reynolds did in enabling peace to come about in Ireland". 

He said: "I particularly recall the 20th anniversary of the Downing Street Agreement and the subsequent IRA-loyalist ceasefires, we ought to recognise the contribution made by those who caught the vision of peace across the island of Ireland and gave of themselves to make it a living reality."

State funeral details announced

Arrangements for the State funeral of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds have been announced.

On Saturday, 23 August, Mr Reynolds will lie in repose in the Oak Room, Mansion House, Co Dublin from 1pm until 6pm.

Members of the public will have an opportunity to file past the coffin and pay their respects to the late Mr Reynolds and sign a book of condolences.

The funeral of Mr Reynolds will take place on Monday, 25 August in the Sacred Heart Church, Donnybrook, Co Dublin at 12pm. 

There is will be limited seating will be available for the public. 

However, the Mass will be relayed outside the church.

This will be followed by the burial in Shanganagh Cemetery in Shankill, Co Dublin.

There is an online book of condolence available on Department of Taoiseach website.

Members of the public will also be able to sign a book of condolences at Fianna Fáil party’s headquarters at 65-66 Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2 from 9am tomorrow morning. The book will remain open until 5pm.