By Sean Ryan - 21 January, 2017
Current All-Ireland Senior hurling champions Tipperary will play a special tribute match to one of their former hurlers and one of the architects of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, the late Fr Alec Reid CssR later this month.
On Sunday 29 January, Antrim will host Tipperary for a challenge match which features in a weekend of festivities dedicated to the memory of the late Fr Reid, the Redemptorist priest originally from Nenagh who played a crucial role in the Peace Process.
Fr Reid was a member of the Tipperary Minor hurling panel which won the All-Ireland in 1949 and he was a joint-recipient of the 1995 Tipperary International Peace Award. Fr Reid was also named the Tipperary Person of the Year by the Tipperary Association, Dublin in April 2006.
Speaking about the festivities, the PRO of the Tipperary County Board Joe Bracken said “On January 29th next at 9.30 am Mass in Clonard Monastery in Belfast, three commemorative plaques will be presented in memory of Fr Alec Reid. One plaque will be presented to Clonard Monastery, one will be held in reserve and will be placed in the redeveloped Casement Park and one will be brought back to Tipperary. Meanwhile at 12.30 pm on the same day Tipperary will take on the Antrim Senior hurling team in Corrigan Park, Belfast in a challenge game.”
Reid was professed as a Redemptorist in 1950, and ordained a priest seven years later. For the next four years, he gave Parish Missions in Limerick, Dundalk and Galway (Esker), before moving to Clonard monastery in Belfast, where he spent almost forty years. The Redemptorist Monastery at Clonard stands on the interface between the Catholic Nationalist Falls Road and the Protestant Loyalist Shankill Road areas of West Belfast.
In 1988 Reid delivered the Last Rites to two British Army Royal Signals corporals killed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) – an event known as the ‘corporals killings’ – after they drove into a Republican funeral cortège in Belfast. A photograph of his involvement in that incident became one of the starkest and most enduring images of the Troubles. It was not known until years later that Reid was carrying a letter from Gerry Adams to John Hume outlining Adams’ suggestions for a political solution to the Troubles.
In the late 1980s Reid facilitated a series of meetings between Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and SDLP leader John Hume in an effort to establish a ‘Pan-Nationalist front’ to enable a move toward renouncing violence in favour of negotiation. Fr Reid then acted as their contact person with the Irish Government in Dublin from a 1987 meeting with Charles Haughey up to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
In this role, which was not public knowledge at the time, he held meetings with various Taoisigh, and with Martin Mansergh, advisor to various Fianna Fáil leaders.
After he moved to Dublin, Reid was involved in peace efforts in the Basque Country. In January 2003 he was awarded the Sabino Arana 2002 World Mirror Prize by the Sabino Arana Foundation in Bilbao in recognition of his efforts at promoting peace and reconciliation.
Reid and a Methodist minister, the Reverend Harold Good, announced at a news conference in September 2005 that the IRA had decommissioned their arms. He received the 2008 Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award together with the Reverend Harold Good. He died in a Dublin Hospital in November 2013 aged 82 years.