Ireland unites for funeral of ex-premier Reynolds

SHAWN POGATCHNIK
Associated Press

DUBLIN (AP) — Generations of Irish leaders united Monday at the Dublin funeral of Ireland’s peacemaking former prime minister, Albert Reynolds, in a ceremony leavened with wit, raw emotions and barnstorming performances from Eurovision stars.

Reynolds, 81, died Thursday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. His requiem Mass brought together political rivals from past Republic of Ireland governments and the Northern Ireland peace process, packed shoulder to shoulder in front-row pews.

Beside Reynolds’ flag-draped coffin, former British Prime Minister John Major chatted with former Irish Republican Army commander Martin McGuinness, today the deputy leader of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government. Seated nearby were Irish President Michael Higgins, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and Ireland’s four surviving ex-prime ministers.

Reynolds worked closely with Major in 1993 to forge the Downing Street Declaration, a peace plan for Northern Ireland that inspired an IRA cease-fire the following year and, eventually, the creation of a unity government for the British territory.

“Had Albert not taken those risks for peace, in all probability we’d all still be killing one another to this day, and in the name of what?” the officiating priest and Reynolds family friend, the Rev. Brian D’Arcy, told the congregation.

Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin read a letter of condolence from Pope Francis, who expressed gratitude for Reynolds’ commitment to peacemaking.

From the pulpit, Reynolds’ seven children offered tributes tinged with anger at the harsh criticisms their father faced during his 1992-1994 run as prime minister, when both of his coalition governments collapsed in acrimony.

Soprano Eimear Quinn, who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1996, took turns singing hymns alongside Red Hurley, another Eurovision finalist, who in the 1970s was Ireland’s top dance band frontman.

Grandchildren carried symbolic artifacts of his life to the altar, including his personal copy of the 1993 declaration and a can of puppy chow from the pet food company that Reynolds founded.

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