Father Alec Reid death: 'Model peacemaker' remembered with love and affection
As the IRA's remaining weapons were being decommissioned in 2005, Father Alec Reid turned to his friend and whispered: "There goes the last gun out of Irish politics."
These powerful words will now be associated with the late priest for years to come after being relayed at his Funeral Mass in Dublin yesterday.
The man who stood alongside Fr Reid as they witnessed the weapons being put out of use told mourners that the words had rung true.
"I will never forget that moment," Rev Harold Good said, "when we stood quietly and witnessed the very last moments of that decommissioning process.
"And Alec whispered quietly in my ear 'There goes the last gun out of Irish politics'."
Mourners heard tales of the life of a "model peacemaker", who dedicated years to trying to resolve the bloody conflict.
But the sense of pain and fear that Fr Reid encountered so often during the Troubles had no influence over the atmosphere in the Marianella Chapel in Rathgar, Dublin.
There was laughter, but yet so few tears. There were stories about Fr Reid's friendships, travels and love for hurling. But above all, a simple yet meaningful affection for this "model peacemaker" permeated the room.
Mourners heard about a man who would simply say that his role was to represent "the next person who was going to be killed or hurt" during the Troubles.
Head priest Fr Michael Kelleher dedicated part of his homily to Fr Reid's deep love for Gaelic games.
We learned that 82-year-old initially started life off as a "Dub", having been born at Leonard's Corner on the South Circular Road. And it was in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, where Fr Reid discovered his abilities once he had a hurl in his hand.
But his Mass heard that it was the community of Clonard in west Belfast where Fr Reid felt most at home.
"Day and night people were looking for him. So much so that there were times when people had to be told he simply wasn't available," Fr Kelleher said.
After becoming critically ill on his 80th birthday, Fr Reid spent three months in three different hospitals before moving to the Queen of Peace Nursing Home on Rathgar. It was there, last Friday night, that he died peacefully in the company of another member of the clergy.
One of the first to arrive at the Thanksgiving Mass was Irish president Michael D Higgins, who described his presence as a "small gesture for a great man".
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald were present along with former Irish minister Dermot Ahern and writer Tim Pat Coogan.
Mourners were informed of the presence of Stuart Dwyer, the US charge d'affaires.
Fr Reid will be buried in Belfast tomorrow.
Belfast Telegraph Digital