Kenny: Albert Reynolds 'made an important contribution' to NI peace process

Tributes are being paid to former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, who has died at the age of 81.

The Roscommon native served as a minister in several government departments and was twice elected Taoiseach.

Mr Reynolds' greatest achievement was the part he played in restoration of peace to Northern Ireland, by opening up channels of communication with the Republicans and Loyalists.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny offered his sympathies and condolences to the Reynolds family and Fianna Fáil.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheal Martin says Albert Reynolds' role in the achievement of the Downing Street Declaration was of huge importance.

“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 (then British prime minister) 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.”

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams expressed his condolences to the Reynolds family.

“I’m really sorry to hear of the death of Albert Reynolds,” he said.

“Albert acted on the North (of Ireland) when it mattered.

“My thoughts are with (his wife) Kathleen and all the Reynolds family.

“May he rest in peace.”

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness told BBC Radio Ulster: ``I think Albert Reynolds showed tremendous courage, Albert was a peacemaker.

“He 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.”

The Sinn Féin leader said the former Taoiseach was a key player in the peace process.

He added: “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.”

His 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 Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who served as finance minister under Mr Reynolds, said his role in the Downing Street Declaration was a critical point in the road to peace in Ireland.

“If there hadn’t have been a Downing Street Declaration, I don’t think there would have been a (IRA) ceasefire in the first place,” he said.

“That was carefully crafted, Albert put a huge amount of energy and commitment into that.”

Mr Ahern said Mr Reynolds’s work had allowed successors to build on it towards a peace settlement.

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