Albert Reynolds remembered as ‘man of peace’

President, Taoiseach and John Major among dignitaries paying respects to former taoiseach

Former taoiseach Albert Reynolds was remembered as a man who "sought peace with determination" at his requiem Mass in Dublin today by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin.

Former British prime minister Sir John Major was among the visiting dignitaries who arrived ahead of the Mass at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook.

Mr Reynolds, taoiseach from February 1992 until November 1994, died on Thursday aged 81 after an illness. His family said last year that he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Fr Brian D’Arcy, the chief celebrant, said he had thanked Sir John for coming to the funeral.


He said Sir John had replied: “Where else would I be?” The congregation applauded.

Fr D’Arcy said a “homely spirituality” was an important part of Albert and Kathleen Reynolds home.

He recalled the “joyous” occasion of their golden wedding anniversary two years ago.

“Albert never once regretted risking everything he had for peace,” he told the congregation. “Albert may you enjoy eternal peace. May you rest in peace, you were indeed a man of peace.”

President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny attended the service.

Dr Martin delivered a final commendation at the conclusion of the requiem Mass celebrated by Fr D’Arcy.

“In his life, in his responsibility for the political and economic destiny of those he was called to serve, Albert Reynolds was responsive and creative and determined in his desire to move forward in the search for peace and for a more just, secure and prosperous society. He sought peace with determination,” Dr Martin said.

Five of Mr Reynolds’ seven children - Miriam, Emer, Leonie, Albert Jr and Cathy - read prayers of the faithful.

His daughter Andrea delivered a reflection after communion while his son Philip delivered the eulogy.

Mr Reynolds' grandson Robert Reynolds and granddaughter Kaitlin Reynolds delivered the readings. The late taoiseach's sister Teresa attended the ceremony, as did his brother Jim.

Earlier, Mr Reynolds’ grandchildren brought gifts to the altar, including an award of the Freedom of Longford, cherished by Mr Reynolds.

Other items included a book of ballroom tickets representing his time in showband era; a model CIE carriage representing his time as railway clerk; a telephone representing his efforts in the area of communications.

A family photograph; a deck of cards; a copy of Downing Street declaration were also brought.

A GAA ball; his autobiography; a racing card; a copy of the Longford News and a tin of dog food representing his successful C&D Foods business completed the set.

Eimear Quinn sang the responsorial psalm and the soloist John McKeown the Gospel acclamation.

Soloist Red Hurley performed Be Not Afraid during the preparation of the gifts. The three musicians also performed solo pieces during communion. Paddy Cole and Eamon Monaghan performed an instrumental after communion.

Council of State members attending included former taoisigh Liam Cosgrave, John Bruton, Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, along with the Hon Mrs Susan Denham, Chief Justice, and Justice Catherine McGuinness and former president Mary McAleese.

Tánaiste Joan Burton and other senior Government Ministers including Minister for Finance Michael Noonan; Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin; Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald; Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe and Attorney General Marie Whelan were there.

A number of Ministers of State attended along with Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke.

Many Fianna Fáil colleagues of the former party leader attended, among them former minister for foreign affairs Dermot Ahern, former minister for transport Noel Dempsey, former minister for education Mary O'Rourke and former minister for finance Charlie McCreevy. Attendees from the current era of Fianna Fáil included TDs Sean Fleming and Darragh O'Brien, Dara Calleary, John Browne and Micheal McGrath as well as current party leader Micheál Martin.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Teresa Villiers, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams were in attendance, as was Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former SDLP leader John Hume and his wife Pat Hume and current SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell.

Acting Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan was there along with senior Army personnel. In all, 32 members of Judiciary and 50 members of the Diplomatic Corps were expected. Longford County Council and Longford Fianna Fáil cumann were represented.

A military party carried his remains from the church. There was a short military procession led by the Army band and followed by an escort of honour bringing the remains to Shanganagh Cemetery, Shankill for burial.

There was no graveside oration.

Earlier, Pope Francis sent a telegram to Dr Martin expressing his condolences on the death of Mr Reynolds.

“The Holy Father learned with sadness of the death of the former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, and he asks you kindly to convey his condolences to Mrs Reynolds and their children and family,” wrote Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State at the Vatican. “Recalling with gratitude the late Taoiseach’s efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Ireland, His Holiness prays for the eternal repose of his soul. To all those gathered for the funeral rites, the Holy Father imparts his Apostolic Blessing, as a pledge of consolation and hope in the Risen Lord.”

Born in November 1932 in Rooskey, Co Roscommon, Mr Reynolds was a businessman, showband promoter and was elected to the Dáil for Fianna Fáil in 1977. He become taoiseach in February 1992, succeeding Charles Haughey.

He signed the Downing Street Declaration the following year in 1993 and the IRA went on ceasefire for the first time in 1994. However the government collapsed in November of that year after the reappointment of attorney general Harry Whelehan and the handling of the Fr Brendan Smyth case promoted tensions with the Labour party. Mr Reynolds retired from active politics in 2002 and was succeeded as Fianna Fail leader by Mr Ahern.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times