UUP leader among those paying tribute to Father Gerry Reynolds

Gerry Reynolds
Gerry Reynolds

A priest hailed for playing a key role in the Northern Ireland peace process has died.

Fr Gerry Reynolds, a Redemptorist priest based at Clonard Monastery in west Belfast, died in the city’s Royal Victoria Hospital on Monday morning after a short illness. He was 82.

The cleric was well known for his cross-community work and efforts to tackle sectarianism.

Originally from Co Limerick, Fr Reynolds worked at Clonard for more than 30 years, arriving when the Troubles were still raging.

The monastery was the focus of secret negotiations between Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and SDLP leader John Hume that provided an impetus for the start of the peace process in the early 1990s.

The discussions were initiated by the late Fr Alec Reid, a close friend of Fr Reynolds.

Mike Nesbitt, UUP leader, said: “I knew him from my days in journalism when he was a vocal and visible member of the faith community pushing politicians to stretch themselves for peace.

“Alongside the late Father Alec Reid and others he was instrumental in the quiet diplomacy that was one of the foundation stones that led to the Belfast Agreement in 1998.”

Rector of Clonard Monastery, Fr Noel Kehoe, said: “Fr Gerry past away in the care of the Royal Victoria hospital at 6.50am this morning, 30th November 2015 after a short illness.

“He will be greatly missed by his Redemptorist confreres and colleagues, his family, friends, and the many people whose lives he touched through his Ecumenical, Peace and Reconciliation Ministries.”

Mr Adams hailed the priest as a “champion of the peace process”.

“Along with Fr Reid and Fr Des Wilson he was central to efforts to develop a peace process years before it eventually took root and he believed totally in the primacy of dialogue,” he said.

“Fr Reynolds was part of the Clonard Church Ministry, a special peace-making ministry within the Redemptorist Order.”

The Sinn Fein TD added: “Fr Reynolds embraced the importance of dialogue with other churches. He was a leader in ecumenical outreach and was instrumental in helping to facilitate discussions between members of the Protestant churches and Irish republicans.

“I want to extend to his family, and to colleagues in the Redemptorist Order, and to his many friends my sincerest condolences.”

SDLP Assembly member Alex Attwood said he had lost a “great friend”.

“Gerry Reynolds was a holy man who touched the lives of countless numbers,” said the west Belfast representative.

“He brought people together. Across our community, our churches and our conflict he worked quietly and relentlessly forging new relationships so that old differences could be resolved.

“He was forever working to make peace. His special work with Fr Alec Reid was one example of this. His life was defined by such work, seeking out the opportunity for good to prevail.

“He was devoted to the monastery, the people of Clonard and all of West Belfast. He brought Christian witness into private lives and public spaces.

“My family have also lost a great friend. Gerry was at our wedding, baptised our daughter Nora and concelebrated my mother’s funeral mass in May.

“At birth, during life and at death Fr Gerry Reynolds was part of the lives of many, many people. He was deeply loved.”