Papal tribute for Albert Reynolds

Pope Francis has paid tribute to the late former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds for his work as a peacemaker.

As mourners gather for a state funeral in Dublin for the politician and businessman, the pontiff sent a telegram in praise of his efforts to promote reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Hundreds of politicians, business figures and dignitaries are attending requiem mass at the Sacred Heart Church, Donnybrook, along with the extended family, friends and supporters.

Mr Reynolds died last Thursday aged 81 after a long illness.

In the message from the Vatican’s secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin to Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, the Pope praised his work and offered condolences to the family.

“The Holy Father learned with sadness of the death of the former taoiseach Albert Reynolds and he asks you kindly to convey his condolences to Mrs Reynolds and their children and family,” the senior cleric said.

“Recalling with gratitude the late taoiseach’s efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Ireland, His Holiness prays for the eternal repose of his soul.

“To all those gathered for the funeral rites, the Holy Father imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and hope in the risen Lord.”

Among those attending the funeral are John Major, who signed the Downing Street Declaration with Mr Reynolds in 1993 and paved the way for peace talks involving the British and Irish governments and Sinn Féin.

The party’s senior figure, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was also attending, along with Liam Cosgrave, the oldest surviving former Taoiseach, and Mr Reynolds’s successor as Fianna Fáil leader former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also attended, along with President Michael D Higgins, a minister in Mr Reynolds's second government.

Figures from politics across Ireland attended including the former SDLP leader and Nobel prize winner John Hume, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, Alasdair McDonnell, leader of the SDLP, and Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa VIlliers.

Other former taoisigh at the service included Brian Cowen and John Bruton, while former president Mary McAleese also attended.

A large group of figures from Longford County Council also attended, as did Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke.

The mass was celebrated by Fr Brian D’Arcy, a close family friend, with Archbishop Martin and a number of other concelebrants.

A large number of members of the judiciary also attended as did Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson.

Tributes flooded in from home and abroad in the days since Mr Reynolds’ death with contemporaries heralding the massive legacy he left after taking risks to carve out the North's peace process.

Mr Reynolds is survived by his wife Kathleen, two sons and five daughters.

The family confirmed last year that he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Born in November 1932 in Rooskey, Co Roscommon, Mr Reynolds was elected to the Dáil in 1977 and went on to become Taoiseach in February 1992 in a coalition government.

Mr Reynolds's remains were brought to the church on Saturday evening after lying in state in the Mansion House for several hours that afternoon.

The coffin sat in front of the altar for the mass, draped in the Tricolour.

Several gifts to be offered up by Mr Reynolds’s grandchildren in the service were also in the church including a book of cloakroom tickets representing his time in showband era, a 1963 train carriage for his time working with Ireland’s transport agency and a tin of dog food representing his successful C&D Foods business.

A photograph of the former Taoiseach was printed on the mass booklet along with the quotation from James Freeman Clarke: “A politician thinks about the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation.”

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