NEWS — 21 August 2014

reynolds

By Shelley Marsden

Mr Reynolds, the former prime minister of Ireland who had a crucial part in the NI peace process, has died aged 81.

The Fianna Fáil politician from Rooskey, Co Roscommon, led the party in two coalition governments and was taoiseach for nearly three years, from February 1992 to December 1994 – one of the shortest terms on record.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams paid tribute to Mr Reynolds on his Twitter account, saying he acted on Northern Ireland “when it mattered”.

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness praised his contribution to the peace process, tweeting: “Very sad to hear that former taoiseach Albert Reynolds has died. Deep sympathy to Kathleen and family. Albert was a peacemaker. #Appreciation.”

On a biography on its website, Fianna Fáil said of Mr Reynolds on its website that his greatest moment without a doubt was in Northern Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations, signing the Downing Street Declaration in 1993.

It went on: “It was Reynolds’ determination that gave impetus to the peace process and the establishment of an IRA ceasefire in 1994, followed shortly afterwards by a loyalist ceasefire.

“It was Reynolds’ determination that gave impetus to the peace process and the establishment of an IRA ceasefire in 1994. Albert Reynolds asked the defining question ‘who is afraid of peace?’ His determination brought about what had seemed impossible”.

Mr Reynolds became a member of Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament) at the 1977 general election, and was elected into the constituency of Longford/Westmeath. From 1979 to 1981, he was Irish minister for posts and telegraphs and minister for transport, reworking the telecommunications system.

In 1982 while he was minister for industry and energy, he developed the National Grid, setting up the gas pipeline from Cork to Dublin. He was later minister for industry and commerce in 1987-88 and minister for finance, 1988-91.

Reynolds secured the Downing Street Declaration with John Major in 1993

Reynolds secured the Downing Street Declaration with John Major in 1993

In 1991, Mr Reynolds was removed from the cabinet for challenging the leadership of his predecessor Charles Haughey, but took up the leadership soon afterwards in a continuing coalition government with the Progressive Democrats.

At the beginning of 1993, Mr Reynolds was returned to office in coalition with the Labour Party. In a fall-out with their partners in the coalition -the Labour Party, the government fell and Mr Reynolds stepped down in 1994 as leader of Fianna Fáil and taoiseach. He was succeeded by Bertie Ahern.

Mr Reynolds was educated at Summerhill College in Co Sligo and went to work for CIÉ, before working for himself and developing various business interests.

In the late 1950s, he and his brother started a chain of dance halls – he was a great fan of Irish country music – which proved popular with thousands of young people throughout the country.

When the showband boom died down, he ran a bacon factory, a fish export business and a pet food manufacturing company.  By the time, aged 44 he entered politics, Mr Reynolds was a self-made millionaire.

He was married to Kathleen and had seven children. His family said last year that he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

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