Friends reunited: Reynolds and Major honoured for their role in peace process
Published 21/06/2008 | 11:16
Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and Britain's former Prime Minister John Major were awarded the Freedom of Cork yesterday to honour their part in the peace process.
Mr Major (65) hailed Mr Reynolds (75) as "my old friend" and described him as "one of Ireland's favourite sons" as the duo accepted Cork's highest award.
Both men declared that the Downing Street Declaration, which underpinned Northern Ireland's power-sharing deal, remains the proudest legacy of their terms in office.
As the two men entered Cork's City Hall, some 20 protesters from Republican Sinn Fein and the 32 County Sovereignty Committee mounted noisy demonstrations.
Jeers and shouts of "Brits out" and "traitor" were heard as the politicians were welcomed on the steps of City Hall by Lord Mayor Cllr Donal Counihan.
Four councillors from Sinn Fein and the Socialist Party also boycotted the awards ceremony in protest at the recipients.
Tight security surrounded the event which was attended by Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe, Cork Freeman and millionaire dancer Michael Flatley, Munster MEP Brian Crowley and developer Owen O'Callaghan. The award came on a particularly significant day for Mr Reynolds, who yesterday celebrated his 45th wedding anniversary with his wife, Kathleen.
Mr Major said many people had helped bring peace to the North.
"Both Albert and I are just a part of what happened. There are many heroes in this peace process -- not just the handful of those whose names you know," he said.
In a tribute to Mr Reynolds, the former Conservative leader said: "If I may speak in a purely personal capacity, I am proud to be honoured here alongside not only an old friend, but one of Ireland's favourite sons."