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Sunday 23 September 2018

'Priest of peace' who prayed over soldier killed by IRA dies aged 82

KEY ROLE: Father Alec Reid, who facilitated key talks in the peace process, was thrown into the spotlight when he prayed over a dead soldier
KEY ROLE: Father Alec Reid, who facilitated key talks in the peace process, was thrown into the spotlight when he prayed over a dead soldier
KEY ROLE: Father Alec Reid, who facilitated key talks in the peace process, was thrown into the spotlight when he prayed over a dead soldier

ONE of the most pivotal figures in the Northern Ireland peace process has died.

Fr Alec Reid, who acted as a broker between the IRA and British government, passed away peacefully in a Dublin hospital aged 82 yesterday.

A native of Co Tipperary, Fr Reid will be remembered for his efforts towards peace. He played a key role in facilitating talks between SDLP leader John Hume and Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams in the 1980s.

Those talks eventually set the stage for the 1994 IRA ceasefire and the Belfast Agreement of 1998 – the events that eventually led to Stormont power-sharing.

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Fr Reid was from the Redemptorist order of Catholic priests, which paid tribute to him following his death.

"He will be especially remembered for his work in the Northern Ireland peace process," the order, which is organising funeral arrangements, said. His funeral Mass has been scheduled to take place in Clonard Monastery in west Belfast on Wednesday.

The monastery was also the venue for much of the talks between Mr Hume and Mr Adams along with other secret peace negotiations.

The priest came to prominence when pictures of him emerged praying over the body of a British soldier who was killed after driving into a republican funeral in 1988. Two plain-clothes corporals, David Howes and Derek Wood, were dragged from their car and beaten by the crowd at the funeral of Caoimhin Mac Bradaigh. They were later shot dead by the IRA before Fr Reid was pictured praying with the soldier.

Fr Reid has been described as a "pillar of the peace process" by Nobel Laureate and former SDLP leader John Hume.

See Andrew Lynch on page 14

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