Tributes pour in for priest who was 'champion' of peace process
A priest hailed for playing a key role in the Northern Ireland peace process has died.
Fr Gerry Reynolds, a Redemptorist priest based at Clonard Monastery in west Belfast, died in the city’s Royal Victoria Hospital yesterday morning after a short illness. He was 80.
The cleric was well-known for his cross-community work and efforts to tackle sectarianism.
Originally from Co Limerick, Fr Reynolds worked at Clonard for more than 30 years.
He arrived there when the Troubles were still raging. The monastery was the focus of secret negotiations between Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and SDLP leader John Hume that provided an impetus for the start of the peace process in the early 1990s. The discussions were initiated by the late Fr Alec Reid, a close friend of Fr Reynolds.
The Rector of Clonard Monastery, Fr Noel Kehoe, led the tributes. He said: “Fr Gerry passed away in the care of the Royal Victoria Hospital at 6.50am this morning, November 30, after a short illness. He will be greatly missed by his Redemptorist confreres and colleagues, his family, friends, and the many people whose lives he touched through his ecumenical, peace and reconciliation ministries.”
Gerry Adams hailed the priest as a “champion of the peace process”, while SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said he had lost a “great friend”.
“Gerry Reynolds was a holy man who touched the lives of countless numbers,” said the West Belfast representative.
“He brought people together. Across our community, our churches and our conflict, he worked quietly and relentlessly, forging new relationships so that old differences could be resolved.
“He was forever working to make peace. His special work with Fr Alec Reid was one example of this. His life was defined by such work, seeking out the opportunity for good to prevail.
“My family have also lost a great friend. Gerry was at our wedding, baptised our daughter Nora and concelebrated my mother’s funeral Mass in May.”
Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt also expressed his sadness at the passing of Fr Reynolds. “I knew him from my days in journalism when he was a vocal and visible member of the faith community, pushing politicians to stretch themselves for peace,” he said.
“Alongside the late Fr Alec Reid and others he was instrumental in the quiet diplomacy that was one of the foundation stones that led to the Belfast Agreement in 1998.”