Ministers: We can assure you that Fathers Alec Reid and Gerry Reynolds were not IRA sympathisers

A letter from the Very Rev Peter Burns, Rev Harold Good and Rev Ken Newell:

Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 8:31 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 8:55 am
Rev Ken Newell with the late Father Gerry Reynolds in November 2013, signing a book of Condolences at Belfast City Hall for Fr Alec Reid who died in a Dublin hospital on Friday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

We, the undersigned, refer to the article by Ruth Dudley Edwards published in your newspaper on Tuesday September 21 (‘The new Northern Ireland Office minister is a Gay Catholic Tory who will listen to unionist fears,’ see link below).

We take great exception to the false characterisation of the late Fr Alec Reid and Fr Gerry Reynolds of Clonard as “IRA sympathisers”.

We have known them and worked closely with them for a large part of our lives and can honestly assure your readers that nothing could be further from the truth.

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Rev Harold Good (left) and Father Alec Reid, who both acted as witnesses for the decommissioning of IRA weapons, pictured when they were awarded honourary Doctorates for Services to the Community at Queen's University in Belfast

We cannot, therefore, remain silent and allow the article to go unchallenged.

Both Fr Reid and Fr Reynolds devoted decades of their lives as Christian pastors to working tirelessly with others to restore peace and forge reconciliation within the troubled and polarised community of Northern Ireland.

It is an historically recognised fact that Fr Reid was instrumental in helping to broker the IRA ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement. He was persistent in his efforts to persuade the republican movement, and indeed loyalists, to lay down their arms and pursue their aims exclusively through democratic politics.

Fr Reynolds also reached out tirelessly to his brothers and sisters in Christ within the Protestant Churches and built many bridges to draw them together in greater respect and practical partnerships. Indeed, Fr Gerry and Fr Alec contributed significantly to the growing openness that prevails today and to that dream of a more peaceful, integrated and flourishing society to which many now aspire.

The increasing numbers of Protestants and unionists who attend Clonard’s social, cultural and spiritual events indicates that the monastery’s “reputation with unionists” was not “sullied” but rather enhanced by the friendship and ministry of Fr Reid and Fr Reynolds. It is today respected as one of the most open, welcoming, and inclusive sacred spaces in the city for those of various religious, social and political convictions, and none.

Those of us who have lived our lives for years in the company of Fr Alec and Fr Gerry, and who know from personal experience the thinking of their minds and the aspirations of their hearts for peace and reconciliation realise how hollow and painful are the baseless allegations made against them. But for those who have not had this privilege, we would encourage you to read the inspiring accounts of their lives for yourselves and draw your own conclusions (One man, one God: the Peace Ministry of Fr Alec Reid by Martin McKeever; Unity Pilgrim: The life of Fr Gerry Reynolds by Gladys Ganiel).

Very Rev Peter Burns, C.Ss.R. Rector of Clonard, Rev Harold Good, Former President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Rev Ken Newell, Minister Emeritus, Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, Belfast

• Other oped below

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