AN Irish priest who acted as a broker between the IRA and British Government during the Northern Ireland peace process has died.
Fr Alec Reid died peacefully in a Dublin hospital at 6.40am this morning, the Redemptorist order of Catholic priests confirmed.
“We extend our deepest sympathy to his family, friends and those who got to know him as a Redemptorist in the various roles and ministries he held,” they said.
“He will be especially remembered for his work in the Northern Ireland peace process.”
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, led the tributes following the news of his death, which included President Michael D Higgins praising Fr Reid for his work.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Father Alec Reid this morning,” he said.
“Father Reid made an essential contribution to the peace process during its most challenging and crucial periods.
“He played a critical but also an unseen role at its very origins. He had a key role in facilitating talks between Gerry Adams and John Hume and, along with Reverend Harold Good, he played a vital part in the decommissioning process.
“The contribution Father Reid made to promoting peace and reconciliation was immensely important.
“He conducted himself with integrity and compassion even in the most difficult of circumstances. His deep respect for human dignity was evident at all times.
“We are the poorer for his passing today but Ireland is very much the richer for his labours.”
President Higgins reflected on a poignant picture of Fr Reid in his tribute, which shows the priest praying over the bodies of two British soldiers killed by the IRA.
“His ministering of the last rites to the two British corporals brutally killed in 1988 offered us an image of decency struggling to assert itself amidst brutality,” he said.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams paid his own tribute to Fr Reid.
He told RTÉ Radio he was with Fr Reid on Thursday night in St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin, and had planned to visit him again today.
“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.”
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.”
The Redemptorists said arrangements for the funeral will be announced later today.