State funeral of Albert Reynolds to be held on Monday

Tributes paid to former taoiseach and ‘dealmaker’ on his death aged 81

St Patrick's Day 2011: Washington 1993. Former Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds travelled to Washington to meet the President of the United States, Bill Clinton. Video: RTÉ

Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 20:10

The State funeral of former taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader Albert Reynolds is to take place on Monday, the Government announced tonight.

Politicians in Ireland, Britain and the US have paid tributes to the former taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader Albert Reynolds who died this morning. He was 81. His family said last year that he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

His remains will lie in repose in the Mansion House on Saturday afternoon to allow members of the public to file past the coffin and pay their respects before removal to Sacred Heart Church, Donnybrook in Dublin 4 at 7.30pm. His funeral Mass will begin at midday on Monday. He will be buried afterwards in Shanganagh Cemetery, Shankhill.

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Flags are to be flown at half mast on all Government buildings until after the funeral.

Mr Reynolds, who had a reputation as a dealmaker, both in business and politics, became the eighth taoiseach of the State in 1992, serving for just under three years - one of the shortest terms on record.

This evening former US president Bill Clinton said he was saddened by the death of a man who had “worked hard and risked much as taoiseach to advance the Northern Ireland peace process”.

“His leadership alongside British Prime Minister John Major was instrumental in laying the foundation for the Good Friday Agreement, and our world owes him a profound debt of gratitude.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Mr Reynolds also acknowledged the role Mr Reynolds played in bringing together the different strands of Northern Irish political opinion.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness identified his courage and as a key attribute and said he “was someone who understood the North and the nationalist republican community but just as importantly he understood the loyalist unionist community and had contacts in both.”

Former taoiseach Liam Cosgrave noted that “Albert and myself used enjoy chats at the races where we exchanged our knowledge of form or lack of it.”

Bertie Ahern, who served as finance minister under Mr Reynolds and succeeded him as taoiseach, said his role in the Downing Street Declaration was a critical point in the road to peace in Ireland.

“If there hadn’t have been a Downing Street Declaration, I don’t think there would have been a (IRA) ceasefire in the first place,” he said.

Former British prime minister John Major, with whom Mr Reynolds worked very closely, led international tributes to Albert Reynolds and said he was a “loveable and remarkable” friend.

“We’ve been able to have the fiercest of rows without leaving scars. I understood Albert’s difficulties and he understood mine,” he said, adding that “Albert was a man prepared to take risks.”

Mr Major said he “treasured” his last meeting with Mr Reynolds and said theirs was a relationship “unlike any other that I had during my time in government”.

A native of Co Roscommon, Mr Reynolds was educated at Summerhill College in Co Sligo and went on to work for CIÉ. He later began to work for himself and developed business interests in areas such as dance halls and pet food.

Mr Reynolds was first elected to the Dáil in 1977 for Fianna Fáil in the Longford-Westmeath constituency.

He served in departments such as finance, industry and transport but was sacked by taoiseach Charles Haughey in 1991 for supporting a failed motion of no confidence in his party leader.

Mr Reynolds eventually succeeded Mr Haughey as taoiseach and party leader in February 1992, overcoming Mary O’Rourke and Michael Woods in a leadership contest.

From early in his term as taoiseach, Mr Reynolds faced a series of scandals. His decision to sack many Haughey loyalists from their roles as ministers was soon followed by the emergence of the divisive X Case, which strained relations between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats.

The Beef Tribunal led to further tensions between Mr Reynolds and the PDs and a row with PD leader Des O’Malley led to the collapse of the government in 1992.

Fianna Fáil performed poorly in the subsequent election and the party ended up going into coalition with high flying Labour, with Mr Reynolds appointed taoiseach and Dick Spring as tánaiste.

Mr Reynolds was credited with making significant progress in bringing about the peace process in Northern Ireland with the 1993 Downing Street Declaration but continued tensions with Labour over decisions relating to attorney general Harry Whelehan and subsequently the handling of the case of Fr Brendan Smyth led to the collapse of the government in November 1994.

He was succeeded by Bertie Ahern as Fianna Fáil leader.

Mr Reynolds was married to Kathleen and they had seven children.

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