The priest who played a prominent role in setting Northern Ireland on the path to peace, Father Alec Reid, was buried on Wednesday following a funeral Mass at Clonard Church, his base in west Belfast during the Troubles.
The Tipperary-born priest died peacefully at the age of 82 on November 22 in a Dublin hospital.
Politicians on both sides of the community in Northern Ireland recalled one of the starkest images of The Troubles, when Reid was pictured in 1988 praying over the bodies of British Army corporals Derek Wood and David Howes, who were dragged from their car, beaten and shot by the IRA after inadvertently driving into the midst of a Republican funeral.
Reid facilitated secret talks between Sinn Fein and the SDLP and, when the IRA eventually decommissioned its weapons in 2005, helped witness the arms being put beyond use.
Reverend Harold Good, who was part of the decommissioning team, said, “The genius of the man was that he enabled people to take steps and to trust themselves as well as others to embark on a journey that at one time to them would have been unthinkable.”
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said Clonard Monastery during the Troubles, was “the cradle of the peace process.”
Adams visited Reid the day before he died and was due to visit him again within a few days.
“I have known Father Alec for 40 years. He was a man of deep conviction and love of the gospel who believed in the good of everyone,” Adams said.
John Hume, who was part of the peace talks facilitated by Reid, said the priest was a pillar of the peace process.
“Without his courage, determination and utter selflessness, the road to peace in our region would have been much longer and much more difficult to traverse,” Hume said.
The North’s First Minister Peter Robinson said, “Alec opposed violence and understood the key to making progress was through reaching out to others regardless of their background.”
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said, “Father Alec Reid was a man of great dignity and his service to society embodied decency and respect for everyone. He made an immeasurable contribution to the peace process and he has left a legacy of peace and hope for a better future for all.”
In the Republic President Michael D. Higgins said Reid would best be remembered for the courageous part he played in identifying and nurturing the early stages of the peace process.