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Peace priest' says IRA ready for deal in 1981

Fr Alec Reid, the priest who helped broker peace in Northern Ireland, said he believed IRA terrorism would have ended as early as 1981 if there had been more goodwill from other parties.

He said he believed that the IRA was fighting not for a united Ireland but for reform in the province. Reid is widely respected for his behind-the-scenes attempts to negotiate peace during the Troubles. The priest has refused to divulge details of his work until now and usually shuns publicity.

It is understood Reid agreed to be interviewed because of his involvement in the peace process in the Basque region of nothern Spain. He outlined his role to the magazine of the Basque peace organisation, Elkarri.

Reid said that in 1974 he and Gerry Adams, then Sinn Fein vice-president, tried to restore a Provisional IRA ceasefire that had broken down acrimoniously.

Reid said: "The IRA showed itself to be very co-operative and for the first time we felt that they were the group most interested in finding a solution."

He described his efforts to include loyalist terrorist groups in talks. In 1981, "we were very close to a new ceasefire but it failed and it wasn't the fault of Sinn Fein," he said.

Reid's comments will be closely studied in political circles because of his intimate relationship with Adams, the Sinn Fein leader.

Sunday Times (London)

22 Apr 2002