Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Albert Reynolds was a real deal-doer who just kept believing in 'impossible'

Albert Reynolds at the signing of the Downing Street Declaration in 1993
Albert Reynolds at the signing of the Downing Street Declaration in 1993
Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds
Albert Reynolds in talks with former British Prime Minister John Major
Billy Hutchinson said Albert Reynolds was well thought of by loyalist ceasefire negotiators
Albert Reynolds in Dublin after a meeting with Gerry Adams and John Hume
Taoiseach and Fianna Fail leader Albert Reynolds
Former leader of the SDLP John Hume
File Pics Albert Reynolds Has Died. Fianna Fail leader Albert Reynolds takes over as Taoiseach as he gets ready for a days work in his new office . 12/2/1992 Pic Photocall Ireland

Albert Reynolds was one of those politicians who knew how to get things done and how to make a deal.

And, in 1994, it wasn't just about the IRA and its ceasefire.

In private contacts dating back to that period, the Presbyterian Minister Roy Magee told him that "unless the loyalists stopped, the war wasn't over".

Reynolds already knew this, of course. He understood that one without the other wouldn't work.

And, so he opened contacts into both communities – quiet conversations with Magee, then Church of Ireland Archbishop Robin Eames and priest Father Alec Reid.

John Hume was the key figure in the process of persuading Gerry Adams and republicans that there was an alternative to violence.

And Reynolds was prepared to take risks others would not.

In one of two interviews I conducted with him in 1995 he described the "graveyard" that Northern Ireland had been for British and Irish politicians involved in past failed initiatives.

But his thought was this: "I had always felt that if those who were part of the problem could be made part of the solution, that it had some chance of succeeding."

And he continued to see those possibilities even in the dark of that bloody week that stretched from the Shankill bomb to the Greysteel shootings in 1993. Reynolds may have wobbled, but he never lost hope.

Trying to establish politics and dialogue over violence and conflict is easier said than done.

The IRA ceasefire collapsed and there were breaches by loyalists before the talking that eventually shaped the Good Friday Agreement. And, what was Albert Reynolds contribution?

It was about knowing who to talk to and how to get through to them. And persuading those in high places of the politics of possibilities.

The initiative he was involved in was at the beginning of the end of long and bloody wars.

He just kept believing.

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