8th Sept 2014
I am glad and, indeed, privileged to be able to rise here and have an opportunity to pay tribute to Albert Reynolds, who died recently. Albert Reynolds coined the phrase, as quoted earlier, “Who is afraid of peace?” It is a very poignant question and one that we would all do well to answer for ourselves and keep answering for ourselves as we go forward.
Albert was a self-made businessman before he came into politics and perhaps that gave him the foundation for much of his political career and the wisdom that he brought to that political career. We here in the Chamber, and, indeed, in Northern Ireland, owe Albert a great debt of gratitude for his endless efforts to bring peace and stability to Northern Ireland. His contribution was enormous. We also owe him a debt of gratitude for the way he changed the relationship with the British Prime Minister. The robust working relationship that he forged with Sir John Major was the hinge on which much good came. The tribute, warmth, rapport and congratulations that John Major got at Albert’s funeral were very significant.
It was a tragedy that events conspired to have Albert retire as Taoiseach before the full fruits of his dialogue with Sir John and all the other leaders came to a harvest point in the Good Friday Agreement.
I was privileged to attend Albert’s state funeral, where he was paid many tributes, which were long overdue, and, as I said, Sir John was commended for the contribution that he made. I have spoken to Kathleen and the family, but I welcome the opportunity here again, on behalf of myself and the wider SDLP, to extend my sympathy and condolences to the whole Reynolds family.