Mourners told of man ‘who never gave up’

Miriam Reynolds tells of her father’s tenacity in the face of adversity

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at the funeral of Mr Reynolds at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at the funeral of Mr Reynolds at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke

Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 01:00

Albert Reynolds’s daughter Miriam told mourners at his requiem Mass yesterday about his tenacity in the face of adversity, saying he “never gave up” in politics.

Mr Reynolds’s success as a peacemaker was the dominant theme at the State funeral, although there were frequent references to his varied business career and the warmth of his family life.

Hundreds of mourners gathered from mid-morning for the funeral Mass at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin, which was packed to capacity.

President Michael D Higgins led mourners at the Mass, which was attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his predecessors Brian Cowen, Bertie Ahern, John Bruton and Liam Cosgrave.

Scores of politicians from Fianna Fáil and other parties attended, 32 members of the judiciary were present and 50 members of the diplomatic corps.

There were representatives from Longford County Council, where Mr Reynolds began his political career, and from the Fianna Fáil cumann in Longford.

Miriam Reynolds was one of five Reynolds siblings to read a prayer of the faithful, praying for the marginalised, the lonely and the isolated to be blessed with inner strength and tenacity. “In the relentless pursuit of his political objectives, Dad was frequently isolated, shunned and vilified: the lonesome boatman,” she said. “Fortunately for all of us, he was blessed with noble qualities which sustained him during those bruising, gruelling years. He never gave up and he never looked back.”

At a solemn ceremony marked at times by intense emotion, there was a spontaneous round of applause from the congregation for former British prime minister Sir John Major. Chief celebrant Fr Brian D’Arcy said Sir John asked “where else would I be on this day?” when he thanked him for attending the funeral.

It was the Downing Street Declaration, issued by Sir John and Mr Reynolds, that paved the way for the 1994 ceasefire of the Provisional IRA. This was followed by loyalist paramilitary ceasefires.

Figures prominent in the peace process who attended included former SDLP leader John Hume, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Mr Reynolds’s then special adviser Martin Mansergh.

“A State funeral honours the life of a person who has done the State a vital service,” said Fr D’Arcy. “This is also a family funeral, and in that Albert was loved by his family that he and Kathleen created so lovingly together.”

Mr Reynolds’s son Albert jnr said his father’s most crucial values were “love of family; deep appreciation of friends; the importance of loyalty; his devotion to public service; and, of course, let’s not forget his love of the great sport of horseracing” .

Daughter Cathy recalled a “powerful moment” in recent months when Alzheimer’s disease had taken away Mr Reynolds’s ability to recall names and his ability to communicate. She looked into the bedroom, “and there, sitting at the side of the bed, were Mum and Dad, holding hands, and Dad reciting in full the Hail Mary, a profound moment that will never leave me”.