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Father Alec Reid: Key player in complex peace process that led to Northern Ireland settlement

Father Alec Reid, one of the best-known Catholic clerics, who played a leading peacemaking role during the Troubles, has died in a Dublin hospital after a period of illness. He was 82.

Fr Reid was a key figure in helping to bring peace to Northern Ireland and he acted as a go-between in dealings with the republican movement and the Government.

He was a soft-spoken man, who normally concentrated on his background role as a peacemaker.

But, in 1988, he was thrust into the headlines during one of the most savage incidents of the Troubles.

Fr Reid was pictured kneeling over the battered bodies of two soldiers as he administered the last rites to them.

In a period of high tension, the plainclothes servicemen had inadvertently strayed into an area where a republican funeral was taking place.

They were beaten and abducted in full sight of the television cameras and were later shot by the IRA.

The picture of Fr Reid kneeling over their dead bodies was one of the most memorable and terrible pictures of the Troubles.

Undoubtedly, this shocking personal experience deepened Fr Reid's determination to try to bring peace to a community deeply divided by paramilitary violence and political deadlock.

Alec Reid was born in Tipperary in 1931. He joined the Redemptorist Order and for decades he was an integral part of the priestly community at Clonard Monastery in west Belfast.

During the Troubles, he worked closely with John Hume, Gerry Adams and others in preparing the way for a cessation of violence.

This was a difficult and frustrating process. But his efforts began to bear fruit.

His reputation was such that he was asked to act along with a former Methodist president, the Rev Harold Good, in verifying the Provisional IRA's arms decommissioning in 2005.

But Fr Reid temporarily lost his sure touch when, in the same year, he attended a peace meeting where he was confronted by protesters and compared unionists to Nazis – an outburst for which he apologised.

In his later years, Fr Reid suffered from ill-health

However, his reputation as a key peacemaker endures and this was underlined by the wide range of tributes from many different sources following the news of his death.

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